J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Blaxploitation Movie: Black Dynamite

Given their violent action, killer attitude, hip beats, and fiery racial politics, blaxploitation films often approached deliriously close to self-parody. Unfortunately, previous spoof attempts rarely understood the soul of the films, merely aping the genre’s 1970’s trappings. While there are a few genuinely inspired scenes in Scott Sanders’s Black Dynamite (trailer here), it is more closely akin to the Scary Movie franchise of dumb film spoofs, than The Spook Who Sat by the Door, Superfly, or Coffy. It will inevitably disappoint anyone who knows their Foxy Brown from their Jackie Brown when it opens today in New York.

Dynamite starts with a pitch-perfect 1970’s era commercial for a fictional malt liquor brand that will play a significant role later in the film. It suggests the film is totally in tune with the era. However, for most of the balance of the film, the jokes are either unremarkable attempts at physical slapstick or bland potty humor.

Black Dynamite is a former CIA cat who came back to his old neighborhood to reclaim it from the mob and the drug-pushers. Yet, just when he thought he was out, the agency tries to pull him back in. Investigating his brother’s murder, Dynamite uncovers an evil racist plot targeting the anatomical “mojo” of African American males. Knowing better than to trust the government, Dynamite recruits a number of unmemorable allies to help him storm the island fortress that is the source of the scourge, in a sequence that sort-of-kind-of brings to mind Enter the Dragon.

To give Dynamite its due, its climax is honestly hilarious. Following the trail of dubious clues, Dynamite takes the fight all the way to The Man himself. It’s a flash of comedic brilliance all too rare in Dynamite. For the most part, the jokes seem utterly disconnected from the blaxploitation genre, as if they were recycled from any silly “Blank Movie” spoof.

As Dynamite, Michael Jai White looks fine in the wardrobe, but he’s no Jim Brown or Jim Kelly. Tommy Davidson brings some welcome energy as Cream Corn, but he does not have much to work with in terms of material. Frankly, Arsenio Hall is completely forgettable as Tasty Freeze.

Dynamite has its moments, but not nearly enough to recommend it. While the art direction and wardrobe get the details right, Dynamite just does not have the soul of its forerunners. It opens today (10/16) at the Regal E-Walk.

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