Release Date: Oct. 16
Director: Scott Sanders
Writer: Michael Jai White, Byron Minns, and Scott Sanders
Starring: White, Tommy Davidson, Kevin Chapman, Minns
Cinematographer: Shawn Maurer
Studio/Run time: Apparition, 90 mins.
Dyanmite vs The Man in Funny Spoof of 1970s Films
It may seem to be a bit late to spoof the blaxploitation films of the 1970s, but don’t tell the guys who made Black Dynamite. Scott Sanders, Michael Jai White and Byron Minns have made a funny satire whose distance from the source material works to its advantage. It pulls its style from films like Shaft and Coffy, using a low-grade film stock, polyester clothing, and afro wigs to mimic their textured look, but it pulls most of its humor from the same vein of silliness that produced movies like Airplane, expecting an audience that responds to absurdity, not movie allusions. Even if your nearest exposure to Foxy Brown is through a Quentin Tarantino homage, Black Dynamite likely has a joke aimed at you.
And for a good stretch, it has plenty of them. The eponymous hero, played by co-writer Michael Jai White, is called away from his bed full of lovelies to fight against the Man, whose many strategic injustices include distributing tainted malt liquor to the ghetto. Bastard. The plot to track him down and take him out is an excuse for a series of vignettes, separated by animated, brassy stings that repeat the hero’s name. “Dyn-o-mite!” When Dynamite and his assembled gang conduct a spitballing session in a restaurant, their chain of deductions and web of conspiracy theories goes on long enough to make Rube Goldberg look like Sherlock Holmes. It’s a joke stretched well past its natural limit, but after a while the joke’s own length becomes the joke, and the laughs continue.
The same strategy doesn’t work for the film as a whole. The sketches do eventually wear thin enough that by the time the story segues into a martial-arts kick-out, Black Dynamite feels like it’s running on fumes, maybe because it leaves its pimp stylings too far behind. But until then, even when the satire is simple in concept (after all, some of the original films are pretty funny on their own), the execution is quick enough to make it work.
Arsenio Hall appears in an uneventful cameo, but the film doesn’t need him. He’s presumably there to lend a bit of marquee value, but his appearance is almost as brief as the appearance of a Captain Kangaroo lookalike, and the latter is both weirder and funnier.