Wednesday, July 21, 2010

"Black Dynamite" is Dy-No-Mite!

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 55 (of 2010) by Leroy Douresseaux

Black Dynamite (2009)
Running time: 84 minutes (1 hour, 24 minutes)
MPAA – R for sexuality/nudity, language, some violence and drug content
DIRECTOR: Scott Sanders
WRITERS: Michael Jai White, Byron Minns, and Scott Sanders; from a story by Michael Jai White and Byron Minns
PRODUCERS: Jenny Wiener Steingart and Jon Steingart


Starring: Michael Jai White, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Tommy Davidson, Kevin Chapman, Byron Minns, Richard Edson, Myketli Williamson, Kim Whitley, Tucker Smallwood, Cedric Yarbrough, John Salley, Brian McKnight, Bokeem Woodbine, Miguel Nunez, Roger Yuan, James McManus, Nicole Sullivan, and Arsenio Hall

Mel Brook’s 1974 comedy, Blazing Saddles, was a successful spoof of Hollywood Westerns because it looked and acted like a real Western. Black Dynamite, the recent parody of blaxploitation movies, ends up being brilliant because it acts like a blaxploitation movie and still manages to skewer every convention of the violent action movies featuring African-American anti-heroes that appeared in the 1970s.

The film focuses on the title character, Black Dynamite (Michael Jai White), a gun-toting, nunchuck-wielding street hero. This self-styled ladies man and soul brother is also a Vietnam veteran and former CIA agent. After his brother Jimmy is murdered, Black Dynamite is reinstated into the CIA to keep him from seeking revenge by himself. After learning that local orphanages for black children are being filled with heroin, he goes after the drug dealers to clean up the streets. However, Black Dynamite discovers a more diabolical conspiracy against the Black man that will take Black Dynamite from the ghetto streets to Kung Fu Island and finally to the Honky House (the White House).

Like Keenen Ivory Wayan’s I’m Gonna Get You Sucka (1988), Black Dynamite is a mock blaxploitation movie that also works as a black action movie, although Black Dynamite is the more convincing of the two as an action movie. Because he is apparently a professional martial artist and has a big muscular body, Michael Jai White can pull off the moves, attitude, and looks of an ass-kicking black superhero. Using his pumped up star, Black Dynamite director Scott Sanders constructs an action movie built on the physicality of his star, and it works. Black Dynamite is like Shaft meets Bruce Lee.

Comedy is Black Dynamite’s calling card. It minds blaxploitation films for laughs more than it makes fun of genre. The filmmakers are nostalgic for those black action movies of the 1970s. How else could they and Michael Jai White capture the language and the feel of blaxploitation so well? Plus, there are several appearances by comic actors in small and cameo roles (Arsenio Hall, Reno 911’s Cedric Yarbrough, MadTV’s Nicole Parker, among them) that add to this movie’s many delights.

Black Dynamite has also given me a new appreciation of Michael Jai White. This actor, who had the title role in the comic book movie, Spawn, and a flashy small part as a crime boss in The Dark Knight, has genuine screen charisma. Hopefully, we’ll see him more often. In the meantime, we have Black Dynamite. Maybe, many people won’t get this flick if they aren’t well versed in the characteristics of black exploitation films, which is unfortunate for them. Those of us who get it get a really good time.

7 of 10

2010 Black Reel Awards: 2 nominations: “Best Director” (Scott Sanders) and “Best Screenplay, Original or Adapted” (Scott Sanders, Michael Jai White, and Byron Minns

2010 Image Awards: 1 nomination: “Outstanding Directing in a Motion Picture (Theatrical or Television)” (Scott Sanders)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


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