Michael Jai White
The Review: Blaxploitation. Wikipedia, that well known peddler of truths and reliable information, informs us that blaxploitation is a portmanteau word, combining black and exploitation. That doesn’t really explain the blaxploitation genre at all, though, so if you haven’t seen it, the common themes are an atmosphere of crime, with drug dealing and pimps, where black is the underclass and continues to fight repression, but where the genre that it’s based in can be drama, action, horror or even musical. Most commonplace in the seventies, the production values, especially away from the major titles of the genre, often left a little to be desired, but there was always a level of commitment to the material and the feelings running through proceedings.
So Black Dynamite is first and foremost a spoof of that genre, and specifically playing on the more drama and action-oriented end of the scale. Spoof feels slightly the wrong word, as this is a lovingly crafted tribute in many respects, but spoof it is, and the best spoofs have an affection for the material they are sending up, often able to call on the better aspects of that material. First and foremost in the genre are the leading men, and Michael Jai White’s creation is a commanding presence, smouldering and winking, although his frantic blinking as he waves a pair of nunchucks in front of his face at speed is just one example of how well-judged the overall tone is.
The other major contribution to Black Dynamite’s success is the music. Also a key influence in blaxploitation, and also in those that have paid homage over the years (Quentin Tarantino with Jackie Brown, for example), the soundtrack here is great, with an abundance of bombast and the occasional tune which spells out the plot in ridiculously explicit detail. There’s a fair array of support players on show here, but all pale in comparison to the mighty wonder that is Black Dynamite. (Dynamite! Dynamite!)
There’s a lot of silliness here, all of which is very welcome. Some is more obvious, some (such as the orphanage gag) might only become obvious if you’re paying slightly closer attention, but in terms of awareness as long as you understand that they once made a movie called Shaft and that there have been some other films with predominantly black casts since, then you should get at least something from this. Since the heady days of Airplane! and Top Secret, successful spoofs have been thin on the ground, and a diet of trash that barely passes for comedy has been thrust upon us in this sub-genre over the last ten years. Thankfully, Dynamite delivers where others can’t – let’s hope the rumoured sequel comes to pass soon. (Dynamite! DYNAMITE!)
Why see it at the cinema: If you don’t, then all the kids at the orphanage will stay addicted to crack. You don’t want that, do you, fool? It’s had a limited release so far, but you can request its dynamite goodness in your area here if you’re in the UK. (Apologies if you’re reading this review some months after the release, in which case, buy the DVD, sucker!)
The Score: 8/10