Thursday, December 03, 2009
Movie Review: Black Dynamite!
I have spent the better part of the last month trying to track down a film called Black Dynamite. It's a modern day blaxspoitation film in the vein of movies like Shaft, Cleopatra Jones, and Dolemite, the latter of which I reviewed on this sight as part of my Movie Rewind thread. Blaxpoitation films were low budget films made by the African American community in the early and mid 1970's. Hollywood at the time was still very much a white man's world, and many struggling minorities decided that the best way to make movies for their culture was to make them on their own. Several years prior directors like George Romero, Russ Meyer, and Roger Corman had been instrumental in creating a new breed of independent cinema not attached to the big studios, a brand of film that most audiences called exploitation films. These films usually were made very cheaply and exploited the audiences desires for films with action, sex, and violence.
Blaxpoitation was born as this same brand of film came as minority actors and directors began financing their own movies. The medium had largely died out by the late 1970's, but the films they had made had a lasting impact on many film makers today. Black Dynamite is a sort of love letter to that classic brand of film. It doesn't have the same sheen that a Hollywood film has, it's rough and dirty, with intentionally bad camera angles, flubbed lines, and exploitative humor, all of which hearken back to that brand of film.
Black Dynamite stars Michael Jai White, best known as the actor who played Spawn, as an ex-CIA operative who now protects his harem of ladies, a sort of super pimp. When his brother is shot and killed by the Man, the CIA drag Black Dynamite back to work for them to track down who killed his brother, and to discover the source of all the bad drugs that are littering his streets and hooking kids on dope. There are homages to many of the great films of the 70's. Everything from Super Fly, to Shaft, to Dolemite, even a bit of Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon, sneak in. Their is more jive talking smack talk than you could ever hope to hear, and the kung fu fights border a line between awesome and hilarious. It's set in the early 1970's, as Black Dynamite forms up his crew of bad ass pimps and hustlers to clean up the streets and find revenge.
White brings just the right qualities to the role, intentionally bad ass when he needs to, and intentionally acting terribly when it calls for it as well. There is a really great supporting cast who get the film as well, Arsenio Hall, Cedric Yarbourough, Mykelti Williamson, and Nicole Sullivan all of which treat the film exactly how it should be. This film is a comedy under the guise of an action film. I can honestly say that it isn't a great piece of film making, but it is something that many movies have forgotten to be. Fun. It's unapologetic and fun and just a great movie to laugh at. It's worth it for what is maybe the greatest fight scene concept ever at the end, where Black Dynamite takes on The Man himself, and there really can be no greater representation of oppression and fear mongering than this man.
The film was written by Michael Jai White and Byron Minns, and directed by Scott Sanders who bring an obvious love to this style of film. They somehow have crafted a film that is at once a parody of the medium they cherish, as well as actually be PART of the same medium. It's a spoof that turns into the very thing it's spoofing. From the intentionally bad film making buts, like changing actors mid scene, or reusing continuity shots, the films creators at once hearken back to a much simpler (and cheaper) film making style, but manage to inject a perfect mix of humor and fantasy to the role. A blend that lets you both root and laugh for these characters at the same time.
I have not had this much fun watching a movie all year. Watch it, rent it, burn it, hell download it, but please check out Black Dynamite!