Black Dynamite is the toughest, baddest blaxploitation hero you haven’t heard of yet. He’s a Vietnam vet and worked for the man as a CIA assassin. Now he’s determined to keep smack off the street and out of the orphanages. He’s vicious to his enemies but smooth with the ladies.
And he’s the centerpiece of the funniest movie of the fall and perhaps the year.
A one man martial arts army, Black Dynamite (Michael Jai White sporting a ridiculous mustache) vows to rid the streets of the city of drugs after his younger brother is killed by some dealers. Carving a path through the city’s underworld, every time he seems to confront the one responsible, he learns that they were only following the orders of another. Soon Black Dynamite is fighting his way to stick it to the ultimate Man behind everything.
Black Dynamite is hands down the funniest genre spoof movie since Airplane. Not that there has been much competition for that title in the last three decades. Black Dynamite doesn’t make the mistake of just parodying specific scenes from other films for its laughs. Instead, it is the distilled essence of dozens of blaxploitation, a concentrate of all their quirks into one film, packing more plot elements than any dozen blaxploitation flicks. The result is a movie that recalls the genre without being beholden to specific entries of it. Sure, some will chuckle knowingly when Black Dynamite stands up in the middle of a dramatic speech and knocks his afro against a boom mic too slow to get out of the way. But the joke is funny in and of itself, requiring no esoteric knowledge of Rudy Ray Moore films any more than audiences needed to be well versed in 1957‘s Zero Hour to find Airplane funny.
Black Dynamite outshines previous blaxploitation parodies I’m Gonna Git You Sucka (1988) and Undercover Brother (2002) where the characters seem aware that they’re in a blaxploitation film. But Black Dynamite fully embraces the concept by recreating the genre’s often low budget look right down to the occasional jump cut and camera shot slipping out of focus. It is as if this film has been sitting on a shelf for 35 years before being rediscovered and threaded up on a projector. Like the perfect wording of a joke, it’s that extra attention to detail that sells the comedy. The key here is that everything is played straight, without winking at the audience.
Special note needs to be made of the film’s soundtrack. There is virtually no moment of Black Dynamite that goes unscored. Adrian Younge’s original music simultaneously evokes and sends up the funk music that dominated the soundtracks of the original blaxploitation films. And when placed next to the 1970s-era library cues that make up the balance of the film’s music, it is impossible to tell the difference.