El Bicho's Hive

A Collection of Reviews Covering the Worlds of Art and Entertainment alongside other Snobbish Ramblings.

Friday, March 05, 2010


Black Dynamite is sheer brilliance and the entire cast and crew should be proud of their accomplishments and contributions. The film is a hilarious comedy, best watched with an empty bladder and a lot of friends. It succeeds because everyone proves to be well versed in the style of Blaxploitation films and filmmaking, which they spoof with reverence. The more familiar the viewer is with the genre, the funnier the film becomes. Black Dynamite is filled with great comedic wit, but I am unable to prove that point here because I don't want to ruin any of the gags.

Michael Jai White, who co-wrote the very smart screenplay with Bryon Minns (seen as Bullhorn) and director Scott Sanders, stars as Black Dynamite, former Vietnam veteran, former CIA agent, and current badass and ladies' man. Over the course of the film, the stakes of the story increase dramatically. At first, it's personal with Black Dynamite avenging his brother's death. Uncovering that mystery, he learns of heroin getting into the orphanage and must stop it. Going after the drug dealers leads him to discover a colossal conspiracy headed by, you guessed it, The Man.

Black Dynamite deals with many people who get in his way: pimps, mobsters, militants, corrupt agents and politicians, and more. They find themselves on the receiving end of sweet, sweet fighting moves. And when he gets his license to kill reinstated, hold on tight, preferably to your sides, because the body count is guaranteed to rise. His journey takes him from the mean streets of the city, to the dangers of Kung Fu Island, and even Washington D.C. One of the many things he wasn't counting on was falling for community activist Gloria (Salli Richardson). She's resistant to Black Dynamite's charms but can hold out only for so long. She is only human.

It's obvious the creative team know Blaxploitation as the influences abound throughout the film. It features homages to numerous performers such as Jim Kelly and Rudy Ray Moore, crazy dialogue, and stilted acting. The bad editing is priceless and an attentive eye will notice cuts that don't come close to matching. Another major component of the film is Adrian Younge's outstanding soundtrack. His music evokes past soundtracks with its '70s soul and funk and the lyrics humorously help tell the story.

The one minor flaw was that the film bogs down a bit with a scene in the third act where Black Dynamite and his team unravel a plan and provide an exposition dump. While intended to mock such scenes, the gag goes on too long and loses its humor by becoming what it is spoofing.

The video is presented at 1080p with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. To help replicate the '70s look, cinematographer Shawn Maurer used Super 16 Color Reversal Kodak film. This causes a lot of grain, particularly in sky. Stock footage was used in some action scenes and the grain can get really intense. There's intentional high contrast and some issues with color consistency but it's not a concern to the filmmakers. Many scenes have very good detail with textures that come through clearly. Thankfully, they didn't use digital effects like Grindhouse to fake wear and damage.

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is solid with an intentional overamplification of effects from guns and fight scenes that are hysterically jarring. Dialogue is clear and understandable. Occasional ambiance fills the surrounds, augmenting the experience. Younge's music sounds great and especially delivers on the low end.

There are a few extras, but the ones featuring the crew discussin the film repeat a number of the anecdotes. Those are an amusing commentary track with White, Minns, and Sanders; the making-of "Lighting the Fuse" (23 min); "The Comic Con Experience" (18 min) from 2009 hosted by Elvis Mitchell; and the Blu-ray exclusive "The '70s: Back in Action" (14 min) with the cast and crew talking about the era and Blaxploitation and their influences upon the film. The other extra is "Deleted & Altered Scenes" (25 min), which presents a good bit of cut footage.

Black Dynamite is one of the best comedies of 2009 and possibly number one. Only The Hangover caused me as much laughter, but over time we'll see which one holds up, but it is certainly a cult classic I am certain to revisit and share with friends. If you are a fan of Blaxploitation, I can’t recommend it enough. It ranks alongside the best work of parody filmmakers Mel Brooks and the team of Abrahams, Zucker & Zucker. I pity the fool that doesn't see this.

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