Black Dynamite Review: A Successful Stylistic and Hysterical Parody on Blacksploitation

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To make a successful parody a film has to not only embody the essence of the genre it’s satirizing but it also has to embrace the attitude and the cinematic feel of the previous films that have already established that stylistic tone. In Scott Sander’s second film, Black Dynamite, the parody of blacksploitation cinema is so palpably resonant that one cannot deny the amount of time and effort it took to conceive such a complex and comical endeavor. Taking the already comical atmosphere of certain blacksploitation cult classics such as Superfly, The Mack or Shaft, Black Dynamite ignites the screen with pitch perfect satire that is as funny as it is accurate in style and feeling. Never feeling forced the film uses every cinematic element from the cheesy 70s soundtrack to the exaggerations in typical character representations to allow Scott Sander’s to make a great parody standing along side such classics as Airplane or even more modern examples such as Shaun of the Dead. Some people might have a difficult time around the inside jokes’ blatantly referencing the blacksploitation style. However, the film does go beyond the level of pure parody with great comedic performances from the unlikely and surprising cast, including co-screenwriter Michael Jai White. Whether or not you get the joke the film is quite enjoyable, despite some over the top moments, filled with action, comedic delivery, and an extremely witty style.

Black Dynamite opens in typical blacksploitation fashion with a murder and a mystery man. Black Dynamite’s brother is killed for being recognized as a spy because of the unfortunate realization from the rest that he can’t speak jive correctly. Of course, the renowned ex-CIA martial arts ladies man extraordinaire Black Dynamite, played in exquisite physical and comedic fashion by Michael Jai White, will be out for blood but will only “leave a little puddle” if the CIA tells him who did his brother in. But vengeance isn’t Black Dynamite’s only determination because there are drug dealers dealing smack to the kids, in orphanages no less, and it needs to be stopped. Every situation unfolds quite comically as Black Dynamite investigates his brother’s murder leading him to the top, where the ultimate “man” is keeping the brother down. Where the script ultimately succeeds is how writers Scott Sanders, Michael Jai White, and Byron Minns have created a blacksploitation hero that embodies the essence and attitude of the 70s time period. This character in all of his chauvinism and revolutionary mentality is certainly comical but also has a well developed base to mimic the genre’s typical character representation. Without this character that is epic in scope and ridiculous in delivery the film wouldn’t have gotten close to succeeding in its parody. Fortunately for the filmmakers and the audience, Michael Jai White’s persona of Black Dynamite makes the film lively and the script satirically potent. While the final stretch of the films goes beyond ridiculous, and at times a bit confusing, the story remains a great example of how to successfully write satire despite some of it’s overly exaggerated moments.

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Immediately the joke in cinematic style should be obvious as the film opens with a blatantly ridiculous 70s style advertisement for Anaconda Malt Liquor, a commercial that hints to the film’s preceding style and tone. While the script has brilliantly laid out the comedic material throughout the film, the technical style certainly accentuates the parody. Cinematographer Shawn Maurer, with great direction from Scott Sanders, weaves in and out of framing as he zooms in for ridiculous close ups or to adjust a shot where the boom pole has comically appeared in the shot. The grainy images and hand held style to capture the kung fu segments are appropriately exaggerated and hysterical in its final product. Even the editor Adrian Younge had a good time piecing together this project, which is obvious in one fight scene where one of the fighters purposefully slaps the other invoking a legitimate “actor” reaction of anger, editing immediately to another cut of them still fighting as if nothing happened. Everything from the 70s costumes to the art direction of the bars and pimp homes invoke a comedic atmosphere successfully bringing the satire of a rare cult cinematic style.

Comedy is especially hard if you don’t have a cast to deliver on the intricately developed character parody. However, Sanders cast the film well with each scene being remarkably comical. Michael Jai White, while physically fit for the kung fu expert, brings a great attitude of personal egoism and confidence while exaggerating fights, in an Enter the Dragon style, as well as personal emotions. The rest of the cast is filled with familiar character actors and notable names, such as Arsenio Hall as a head pimp and drug dealer and Phil Morris in a comically out of place performance as the revolutionary leader. All of the tongue and cheek joke and satirical set ups are handled well by the entire cast not making the film feel forced for parody but rather allowing it to flow at an appropriate and comedic pace.

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Modern comedies tend to rely on exaggeration or gross out humor and while Black Dynamite contains some minor elements of those attributes it never uses them outside of their tightly structured frame as a parody. The art direction, costume design, soundtrack, camera use, and editing style all come together to get the feeling of blacksploitation cinema while the actors and director successfully get the essence of the genre, successfully weaving a satire that isn’t forced. Everything flows together nicely and is surprisingly obvious how much effort went into developing this difficult and hysterical script. If you’re not familiar with blacksploitation then the film might not necessarily be your cup of tea, but just because you don’t get the joke doesn’t mean it wasn’t clever to begin with. Anyone intrigued or interested in comedy should take a few notes from Scott Sanders, Michael Jai White, and Byron Minn’s script, which takes an already exploitable genre and delves into it’s more humorous traits.

Grade: A-

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Comments
One Response to “Black Dynamite Review: A Successful Stylistic and Hysterical Parody on Blacksploitation”
  1. D-Rock says:

    I totally agree!
    It was a most awsome movie!

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