Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Black Dynamite (2009) - By Mark Oswald


Now here we have a clever and a highly entertaining spoof of 1970’s era Blaxploitation films. Martial artist Michael Jai White breaks into a whole new repertoire with a hilarious cinematic character, whose film acts as a spoof, satire, and all-round enjoyable action comedy based on films from the 1970’s that typically starred actors like Jim Brown and Fred “The Hammer” Williamson. You’ll probably remember I mentioned Mr. Jai White in my review of his equally (but differently) impressive fight film, Blood and Bone. I also name dropped his other neo-action classic, Undisputed II: Last Man Standing in that same review. With Black Dynamite he very successfully completes a trifecta of awesomeness that any self-respected ass kicker could be proud of.

Is it possible to pay homage to a genre of film while also making a competent and enjoyable example of it at the same time? Well yes, it is. It’s been done before, too, and you don’t even have to go too far back to find them. Director Edgar Wright’s one-two punch of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz were both immensely enjoyable genre films that knew exactly how to poke fun at the clichés that have bombarded Zombie and Buddy Cop films since their inception, while reigning in the satire to a level that allowed the films to take themselves just seriously enough to actually make you care about the characters portrayed therein. Let’s also not forget about the highly underappreciated Galaxy Quest, which was not only a funny and clever send up of the "Star Trek" phenomenon, but a sincere and heart-filled one as well.

Black Dynamite works for the very same reasons that these other films do. It’s made by people who understand and respect the Blaxploitation genre, while also recognizing that it holds a veritable goldmine of satire. In the Special Features section of the DVD, the filmmakers talk about how a lot of actual Blaxploitation films are in reality, kind of boring outside of the classic individual scenes that they are remembered for. So with Black Dynamite, they wanted to basically cut out all of the filler that would normally accompany those types of movies, and go straight for the gold, so to speak. And speaking of cutting out the filler; the running time here is only 84 minutes, so they certainly don’t leave any time to waste on slow ass bullshit...or whatever.

Now admittedly, Blaxploitation has never been an area of expertise for me, but I am familiar enough with the genre to appreciate what was going on. When it comes down to it, I think the reason this film worked so well (for me, at least) was because of all the more modern (or post-modern?) humor thrown in as well. It allowed the film to escape its own mould and elevate to a level that would appeal to fans of good comedy as well as true purists of the genre who no doubt will probably pick up on about 100 more sprinkles of Blaxploitation references that I missed. I know this because in the Making-of Featurette, they give off a lot of examples, which I’m sure will help me to enjoy the film even more the next time I watch it; and let me tell you…

There will be a next time.

Body Count – 56

Donuts Killed in the Name of Righteousness – 1

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