Movie Review: Black Dynamite

Brilliant Blaxploitation re-crafting

Answer me this – if you had the chance to watch Richard Nixon in a kung fu fight, would you do it? If so, read on. If you love genre spoofing, and have a rudimentary knowledge of the basics of Blaxploitation films, look no further – this is your film of the week. Not so much a parody of the genre as it is a reverential love letter complete with cheeky rude poem, Black Dynamite is a breath of fresh and funky air for spoof-lovers who watched Scary Movie and thought “It’s good…but I wish it were better”.

It is a perfect replica of the elements which made the cult 70’s genre so utterly, indelibly imprinted on our culture. That the movies themselves, notably Shaft, Sucka, Pootie Tang and Undercover Brother, were actually (dare I say it) a little boring in essence, is a matter of personal taste, but it does beg the question then: why do a remake instead of a parody? I can’t answer that, but I can say this – if you never watch a single original genre film, this one will still bring you up to speed.

The plot is classic – former CIA Agent Black Dynamite (Michael Jai White), declares war on the drug dealers who killed his younger brother. He cleans up the streets, but discovers a diabolical scheme by corrupt officials and a fiendish evil doctor to take over the world. Black Dynamite storms the White House to confront President Nixon, the mastermind behind the whole evil plan.

Depending on your stance, what’s great or irritating about this film is that it understands it’s parody, but refuses to acknowledge it, instead playing it completely straight, which will please fanboys, but infuriate anyone who likes a cheeky wink, a tongue in cheek moment, or a reference to parody that they can actually get –these are few and far between.

It’s unclear to me exactly why director Scott Sanders chooses to present his film as a carbon copy rather than have it more referential, but as a fan of the original genre, I appreciate it for what it is – pure, unadulterated, cheesy cool bad-assness, resplendent with rippling muscles, gigantic hair and kung fu fighting all the way, and a killer vintage-esque soundtrack inspired by Curtis Mayfield, Isaac Hayes, Ennio Morricone, and Wu-Tang Clan. Come on – what’s not to love?

This isn’t a genre remake, or even a genre deconstruction. It’s a genre homage, and a damn good one – if you like that sort of thing. It’s a shame it isn’t a bit funnier, but it certainly has its moments.