Of course, there will always be “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka,” the crown jewel of blaxploitation spoofs. Nothing will ever equal its invention or ability to surprise. However, “Black Dynamite” is a worthy challenger for the throne. Playing straight-up silly with ‘70’s filmmaking aesthetics, “Dynamite” isn’t consistent, but it’s damn funny at times. A feisty, gleefully harebrained spoof of all things “Shaft” and “Superfly,” “Dynamite” is a jubilant ode to the firm cinematic pimp hand, which, in this picture, smacks bad guys around and tickles the audience with the same devotion.
An evil presence in the inner city has committed the ultimate crime: they’ve killed Black Dynamite’s kid brother. Now Dynamite (Michael Jai White) is on a rampage, tearing up the streets to find the perpetrators. On the path to revenge, Dynamite looks to keep the kids safe from smack, protect his bitches from harm, and stop whitey from poisoning the community. When the help of main man Bullhorn (Byron Minns) and activist Gloria (Salli Richardson), Dynamite kicks into action, looking to wipe out the men responsible for his brother’s murder, finding a horror greater than death when the conspiracy against the black man is finally revealed.
“Black Dynamite” is knowing, but it rarely winks at the audience to signal some sort of self-aware comfort. The film has a fantastic poker face, committing to a blessedly silly routine of mockery and homage, giving the blaxploitation genre a lift and a spanking. The jokes are obvious, but delivered with confidence by director Scott Sanders, who embraces the art of lampooning without plunging straight into tastelessness (a crutch for lazy filmmakers). “Dynamite” is comfortable being goofy, investigating this roundhouse kicking world of hustlers and honeys with a generous sense of humor and a lead actor who’s finally found a role to fit his frosty personality.
Michael Jai White is wonderful in the picture. After a string of roles that required him to punch and snarl (“Spawn,” “Universal Solider: The Return”), “Dynamite” finds something to do with his muscular identity, providing a super-cool character who’s catnip to ladies and the ultimate African-American weapon. White maneuvers through the ridiculous action sequences splendidly (often intercut with footage from other movies), using his extreme physicality to punch villains through walls and convincingly brandish phallic weapons. Coolly purring his come-ons and threats, it’s a joy to watch White find the comedic corners of the role, while the supporting cast has free reign to be as ludicrous as need be. I’m not suggesting this is White’s “Streetcar Named Desire,” but he’s a terrific figure of brute violence and sexual demand as Dynamite, bringing with him the film’s largest laughs as our hero smashes faces and the actor deals with the crew’s low-budget incompetence (there’s a boom mike joke here that absolutely kills).
Shot with shaggy period details and frazzled editing attention, “Dynamite” continues the merriment through the buoyant filmmaking effort. “Dynamite” may have its tongue firmly planted in cheek, but it’s a convincing facsimile of a blaxploitation adventure, down to the costumes and the kiss-offs. Sanders spins the mood further with terrific L.A. eatery jokes (Roscoe finds his donuts and chili restaurant just isn’t cutting it), a playful score from Adrian Younge, a choice moment of animation, and supporting turns from famous faces and comedians (including Arsenio Hall, Tommy Davidson, Phil Morris, and Mykelti Williamson).
Working out the “kung-fu treachery,” “Dynamite” pulls a few muscles trying to fill 80 minutes of screen time, leading to a frenzied conclusion more chaotic than humorous. Still, this is solid work all around, and the spell is rarely broken. So grab your nunchakus and beware of the malt liquor, “Black Dynamite” is here to help the parody genre out, one face kick at a time.Rating: B+