Most of us have some sort of idea of what Blaxploitation is, whether it’s from Blacula, Shaft or Dolemite in the ’70s, or the more modern incarnations like I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, Pootie Tang or Undercover Brother. But the more recent films trying to recapture that feel miss the mark by having studio standard production values, while the older films can be a bit dry and long-winded.
Along comes Black Dynamite: the perfect homage to Blaxploitation. And I say homage and not spoof because it really captures the feel of those older films, while upping the ante by including every single aspect that is necessary when making a movie about a big black motherf-er who kicks ass and gets tail wherever he goes.
Riding the wave of Grindhouse films like Planet Terror, Death Proof and Machete, in swaggers Black Dynamite. The draw of this throwback to the ’70s is an effort to connect back to a time where budgets were barely needed and it was all about topping the movie before, showing more and more crazy with each scene. The ultimate goal would be to create a single work that utterly captures the nuances, the cliches, the character of a past era – so rather than spark a new wave of Blaxploitation flicks, instead we close the book with one film that takes it to that next level.
Black Dynamite does that in spades (see what I did there?). It stars Michael Jai White (it was nice to see him in a good, fun action movie since playing Spawn and having his part in Kill Bill cut out of the final edit) and Tommy Davidson, who was always consistently funny and over the top. I don’t know many of the old-school stars of Blaxploitation movies, but they’re here as well.
When I said this movie has it all, it covers all the bases from pimps to smack to corrupt CIA agents to illegitimate children to malt liquor and government conspiracies designed to keep the black man down. It also has boom mics in shots, dramatic far-off looks after long soliloquies, a grainy film stock look and an insane script that jumps all over the place. What I particularly enjoyed was the pacing, which made the film seem like three exploitation movies condensed into one (such as would benefit movies like Street Fighter, Return of the Streetfighter, and Sister Streetfighter). The first act opens like a crime story: a deal gone bad, a murdered brother, a badass who needs more purpose, a sinister plot afoot. The second act jumps into an idyllic, cleaned-up black neighborhood, but we learn more of the overall evil plan, which involves drugs, 40s of malt liquor and major shrinkage.
Then there’s the leap into the third act, which brings out a Dr. Fu Manchu baddie and leads up to the ultimate villain. I won’t spoil it here, but when you think of the 70’s, the mastermind is ideal, in a surreal, insane way. That’s all I can say. Go give it a watch, for the nunchaku duel, the swapped-out stunt doubles, the simple and effective directing. Whatever you may want or expect from this movie, it’ll give you – and then show you something you didn’t see coming.
@KurtChristenson keeps it real, keeps it hood, and keeps it real hood.