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This film reduced me to tears of laughter. I've just returned home from
seeing it at the Edinburgh film festival and can honestly say this is
one of the best movies i've seen this year. I could just list all of
the best bits of the movie in this review, but i'd rather you all just
went to see it for yourselves.
As a parody/homage of the blaxploitation movies of the 70's, this is perfect. If I didn't know better, i'd think this was actually made in the 70's. Its full of cool little details, the decor, the fashion, the hair styles, the Isaac Hayes/Curtis mayfield style music that details the plot in the lyrics (sometimes scene specific), the grainy picture and the intentionally dodgy camera-work, crash zooms, boom mics in shot etc. During the fight scenes, Michael jai white's kung fu yell is a spot on impersonation of Jim Kelly's (he of Enter the Dragon fame).
Like all the best spoofs, all the actors play it completely straight. White is perfectly cast as Black Dynamite, and if there is any justice in the world, this movie will make him a star. I can almost imagine Samuel L playing this part, but I doubt he could have played it as well as white did. The scene that crystallised his performance for me, was when, during a long speech, a boom mic pops in to shot right next to his face. During the scene, the cameraman is continually trying to adjust the shot to hide the mic. Dynamite continues with his speech as if nothing is going on, but just before he is finished talking, he quickly glances at it, then finishes his speech. The way he plays it is perfect and had everyone in the cinema in fits of laughter.
I said earlier that this is the best spoof since airplane, but I actually think this may be better. In airplane, the jokes were quickfire, but hit and miss, but in black dynamite, every joke hits its mark, and its just as quickfire as airplane. The tone is set pretty quick ( when an undercover agent is caught out cos he cant talk jive properly) and doesn't let up until the credits have rolled. I was still laughing hours after I left the cinema just thinking about it.
Watching this made me wonder how the Austin powers films were such big hits. They were a similar kind of parody but nowhere near as funny, and at the end of the day, aside from a couple of amusing cameos, a one man show (and not a very good one at that). If this doesn't at least do Austin powers numbers, I will be very disappointed, as it deserves the success. Very rarely does a film make me laugh so hard I cry, and this movie did it several times, and its not just me, I think everyone in the cinema had the same experience. Go and see this first chance you get, I cant recommend it enough.
It's not often that I enjoy a movie to the point of laughing out loud but Black Dynamite had me belly-laughing more than once. For those of us who are old enough to remember the joys of 1970's cinema this movie brings back all that was best (and worst) of those slightly grainy, scratched, funk and wow-wow pedal laden classics. The deliberate continuity errors and goofs are hilarious. The dialogue and stock characters could be drawn from any of those wonderful blacksploitation movies that were so exciting for a young lad living in rainy (and then almost 100% white) Ireland. So dig out your wide-collar shirt, pendant and platform boots and enjoy this gem.
I had the great good pleasure of experiencing the full force of Black
Dynamite at a midnight showing (at the Castro...one of The Last Great
Movie Palaces). I had high expectations going in (based on the YouTube
trailer). They were met, exceeded, and blown the F away. I don't
remember betting a gut busted so hard in ages.
BD is an absolutely perfect movie. It somehow manages to be a parody and the thing that it is parodying at the same time. You are watching this alternate universe (a fantasy of the 70s, filtered through the lens of Blaxploitation) and the characters are REAL and they believe in the fantasy. But you are also constantly reminded that you are watching a FILM, an intentionally bad one at that. All the things professional filmmakers try to avoid, they do on purpose: Boom mike hitting actor's head, obvious continuity errors, reusing the same shot to save money (exploding car flying off cliff), replacing a stunt actor in mid-sequence... The effect is delightful and hilarious.
Kudos to the crew and actors for really "getting it" and going for it. (I think the only movie I've seen recently where the actors were having so much fun was Tropic Thunder.)
Oh, and the soundtrack; Man, I need to get me some of dat.
I saw this last night and it's the first movie in a long while that hasn't left me feeling ripped off. Thoroughly entertaining and is funniest movie I've seen all year. The movie does what other spoof films haven't done. It's well crafted and thought out and shows a great attention to detail. The camera work is great, music is well chosen, the backgrounds and venues are authentic, the jokes and dialog are funny, Michael Jai White and the supporting cast are great. I saw a trailer earlier this summer but had forgotten about the movie until I read a magazine interview with White discussing the movie. It's a shame there isn't more publicity behind this movie. This film will surely be a cult classic in the same line as Pulp Fiction.
All you suckas gather round, there's a brand new movie in town! So get
on up and check the scene cause Black Dynamite is the baddest movie to
ever hit the big screen! Black Dynamite, directed by Scott Sanders
(Thick as Thieves), is a fun and ridiculous throwback to all of the
great blaxploitation films of the 1970's. Paying homage to such great
films as Shaft, Dolemite, Coffy, and more.
The movie centers around Black Dynamite, an ex-C.I.A. Agent / Vietnam Vet / Kung-Fu Master / Pimp / Everyday Bad Ass, who is pulled back in the game when the mob kills his brother and puts the dope on the streets. So Black Dynamite is forced to take down the mob and clean up the ghetto. On his quest for vengeance we discover that the treachery runs far deeper then we ever could imagine. Black Dynamite must take his fight from the streets all the way to the top, even if that means taking on The Man himself in the white halls of the Honky House.
The film is not only an homage to the stories and themes of blaxploitation films, but also how they where made and the culture behind the genre in a whole. Top-notch crews with million dollar budgets never made these types of movies. Often blaxploitation films, like any other exploitation genre of the 70's, were filled with botched shots, boom mics, and stiff acting. From the beginning all exploitation films existed simply to sell tickets and make money. Usually, for the audience, this meant a poster that was far more exciting then the movie itself. Despite that fact Black Dynamite definitely delivers on what it advertises. The film is able to use all of these unfortunate elements intentionally and create subtle and at times not so subtle laughs. A good example of this is a scene early on in the film where Black Dynamite is giving a long monologue and a boom mic pops in the shot just above his head. As the scene plays out the cameraman even attempts to adjust the shot to try and hide the mic, possibly making it worse. Dynamite continues on with his speech as if nothings wrong, until he's almost finished and he quickly glances at it, then he proceeds to finish as if he's seen noting at all.
The key factor about all of these gags is that all of the actors/characters play it completely straight from beginning to end without skipping a beat. This is a spoof, in the vein of films like Young Frankenstein or Airplane!, that doesn't let the cast in on the joke. The movie plays out as if it's your typical 70's revenge flick. So you end up feeling as if the film was just unearthed after being lost for thirty years or so and you accept it. In the end this is what keeps the movie fresh and the audience wanting more. Most spoof movies that go in the other direction, ending up with a movie filled with a series of gags that feel contrived and completely take you out of the movie (see Disaster Movie or Meet the Spartans). Here you're with Black Dynamite all they way to the end no matter what.
The cast of characters in the film might even be crazier then the films itself. With names like Cream Corn (Tommy Davidson), Chocolate Giddy-Up (Cedric Yarbrough), and Tasty Freeze (Arsenio Hall) you know you're in for a wild ride. All the supporting characters feel authentic and bring much needed humor to a world filled with kung-Fu treachery and smack addicted orphans. Though, when it comes down to it this is a one-man show and Michael Jai White, who is also a co-writer on the film, gives an outstanding performance as our main man Black Dynamite. In order for this movie to work Black Dynamite needed to live up to the hype it created. Like the trailer says, "he's tougher then Shaft, Superfly, and the Mack all put together". White definitely pulls it off; creating a character that you love and believe without a doubt could take King Kong in a fistfight and not even break a sweat. White really shines in this movie and I hope it leads to more leading roles for him.
One last thing that can't be overlooked about this film is the soundtrack by Adrian Younge, who came out of nowhere and created a very convincing 1970's soundtrack. The best thing about the soundtrack is that it feels vintage fitting right in with similar soundtracks from the 70's, but at the same time remains fresh and doesn't seem to rip-off anything specific. He hits all the right notes and keeps true to that retro 70's beat. The majority of films today wish they had a soundtrack half as good as Black Dynamite.
If you enjoy the exploitation films of the 70's or movies like Army of Darkness and Grindhouse you're going to love this movie. Though if you're a film-goer who can't stand movies with a ridiculous premise you'll want to avoid this one, but for those that do your going to have a blast. Unfortunately Black Dynamite has only opened in a few cities so far keep an eye out for it, hopefully it will get a wider release in the weeks to come. This is definitely one of those movies that benefits from viewing it with an audience so if it's in your town be sure to run out and see it. Can you dig it?
Recommended Flicks: Shaft (1971) | Dolemite (1975) | Truck Turner (1974) | Coffy (1973) | Hammer (1972) | Magnum Force (1973) | The Last Dragon (1985) | I'm Gonna Git You Sucka (1988) | Enter the Dragon (1973)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Taking scenes from current films and goofing them up, parody flicks
come off as lazy and, in the long run, forgettable. That's not the case
with "Black Dynamite", a slam-bam spoof of the blaxploitation films of
the 1970s, that stand on its' own two feet. Holy Mel Brooks and Quentin
Tarantino (Both men should watch this film)!
Big, black, sexy,dangerous and sometimes ludicrous is the title hero (Michael Jai White of, "Spawn", The Dark Knight" and an edited scene from "Kill Bill"), an ex-CIA operative who's on the road of revenge when his kid brother's killed for being an undercover snitch (and speaking proper English!).
The crime leads to plots involving drug-addicted orphans (Huh?) and malt liquor that emasculates African-American men (What the?!). Through it all, BD encounters mobsters, dealers, pimps, hustlers, whores, Black Power revolutionaries, corrupt CIA operatives, kung fu assassins and. . . good God. . . a nunchuks-wielding Richard Nixon (Now, why didn't Zack Snyder give his Nixon in "Watchmen" some mad kung fu skills?)!
Unlike previous spoofs of the genre ("I'm Gonna Get You, Sucka!" ,"Undercover Brother" and "Pootie Tang"), "BD" takes place in the 1970s, not only embracing the funky fashions, ambiance and lingo, but also the embarrassing gaffes, miscues and continuity errors that the politically minded, yet Ed Wood-like auteurs blatantly sanctioned in their cine-opuses. A character hits his head against the boom mike. A stuntman's quickly replaced within the reel (!) after getting hit accidentally. Wild, shaking close-ups are aplenty. Exposition is told in song. Supporting players appear out of nowhere! For cine-sticklers, it's a parade of goofs.
A crowd pleaser at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, "BD" is a laugh riot and a half, thanks to the gonzo ace script by White (possibly the next Leslie Nielsen), Byron Minns (who plays a rhyming night club owner, a la the late comic Rudy Ray "Dolemite" Moore, here) and Scott Sanders ("Thick as Thieves" which features White), the film's helmer, who expertly winks at the audience as he stands behind the camera.
Characters actors are dead-on camp: Salli Richardson-Whithead ("Posse", the TV show, "Eureka") is a Black Power revolution dame, who falls for the hero; Mike Starr ("Goodfellas", "Jersey Girl") is a mobster flanked by bikini-clad babes; Phil Morris ("Seinfeld", "The Secret Saturdays") is a revolutionary capo; Mykleti T. Williamson ("Forrest Gump", "Lucky Number Slevin ") is a mean street hustler, comics Arsenio Hall and Cedric Yarborough are tacky clothed pimps; Tommy Davidson ("In Living Color") is a politically incorrect gay man; Roger Yuan (the film's co-stunt choreographer, "Shanghai Noon") as a fiendish kung fu villain and Nicole Sullivan ("Rita Rocks, "The Secret Saturdays") is Tricky Dick's better half, Pat Nixon. Yeah. . .she falls for BD too.
With a $3 million budget, "BD"'s free to be a true parody, needing not to resort to cheap gags. Some might see the flick as unneeded but the animosity towards our current President (Hint! Hint) disproves that. Go see "Black Dynamite". . .unless you're some super, jive-ass sucka!
This is what "Undercover Brother" and "Grindhouse" (minus the 'phony'
trailers) wished they could have been but weren't: a tribute to a
dismissed period of cinema that feels like it belongs (and comes from)
But this isn't just a collection of random jokes or stabs at blaxploitation genre clichés without rhyme or reason. There is an actual story (convoluted and non-sensical but it's there, and even allows long scenes that advance the plot to unfold without a single obvious joke), there are real characters (over-the-top and cliché' but not two-dimensional walking cardboards) and there are action/fighting scenes (enhanced via the same seamless green screen/CG technology used in "Kung-Pow" a few years back) that make this an actual blaxpoitation movie that just happens to be funny because it's being so true and respectful to the genre it represents. Michael Jai White looks and inhabits his lead role like he stepped out of the 1970's; it's the best casting for a movie since Christopher Reeve got the Superman/Clark Kent role, and I'm not kidding. Supporting actors really get into their blaxpoitation roles (Arsenio Hall and Tommy Davidson are hilarious in too-brief cameos) but they don't overplay their OTT personalities or overstay their welcome. The way "Black Dynamite" gets around its 'R' rating to sneak in a graphic sex scene is not only genius but ties directly with the movie's best scene in which the 'heroes' crack the code in a cafeteria. And the orphanage scene has to be seen to be believed. :-P Only the overblown finale that pushes things way past the breaking point (think "Shoot 'Em Up" and yes, it's that big a misfire) betrays the cinematic illusion that this is a 70's flick that's been rotting in a vault somewhere.
I got my $12.50's worth and will gladly wait for the DVD because I'm sure there's a joke or two I missed. The one's that hit the mark are hilarious though. Don't listen to the DVD Talk reviewer on this one (they're usually right but this time he's way off), "Black Dynamite" is a winnah!
Black Dynamite has quite a reputation as just about every article or
review that mentioned the film gave it high praise. Is it possible for
a film to be incredible while paying homage to the films that inspired
it? Sure it is. Directors like Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez
make a living doing just that. With Black Dynamite, however, you may
not know what to expect. Expect it to parody the blaxploitation films
from the 70s, pay homage to classic kung-fu films, have ridiculous
dialogue, a storyline that hilariously doesn't make sense, and have a
funky soundtrack with lyrics that are just as awesome as the rest of
Michael Jai White is really the selling point of the film since he is Black Dynamite and you're with him the entire film. I hadn't seen much of White's work before this, but I'm definitely wanting to see more now. His fight scenes are top notch and from what I could tell, it looked like he did the majority of his own stunts. The word I've been hearing is that he's a fairly impressive actor overall, but has just never really picked the right roles and never really broke into the mainstream. Maybe after playing Gambol in The Dark Knight helped him out a bit because he definitely has a bright future as not only an action star, but an actor as well. Other than his superb martial arts work, White's comedic timing is also really important in a film like this and it really pays off. There's a scene where a boom mic is noticeably in the shot while Black Dynamite is giving a big speech. He draws attention to it by repeatedly glaring at the mic throughout the scene, but doesn't miss a beat of the dialogue. Ridiculous scenes like that were crucial in the overall enjoyment factor of the film.
The dialogue is laugh out loud funny at times. There's a scene where the CIA show up at Black Dynamite's house and Agent O'Leary says to Black Dynamite, "We heard about your brother's death and we don't want you running around turning the streets into rivers of blood." Black Dynamite responds with, "Then tell me who did it and I'll just leave a puddle." The storyline is just as absurd, as well. Other than the film missing scenes that were shown in the trailer and things not fully being resolved with Vincent "The Don" Rafelli, the scene where Black Dynamite and his crew figure out what Anaconda malt liquor's true purpose is is both hilariously long-winded and confusing.
Black Dynamite may not be for everyone, but it will be hilariously awesome for most who actually get to see it. The film somehow manages to blend comedy as absurd and ridiculous as films like Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy or Zoolander and have hard hitting action scenes that are noticeably a tribute to classic Bruce Lee films. This blaxploitation parody comes highly recommended, can you dig it?
Here's a film that would have fit perfectly with the 2007 release of
Grindhouse. I wish that Black Dynamite had been worked on enough so
that a trailer would have been featured along with the faux trailers in
Grindhouse. (Although one of those faux trailers, Machete, is being
made into a full-length feature.) Michael Jai White (who is probably
best known by many as Spawn or as the ill-fated gangster, Gambol, from
The Dark Knight) is excellent as Black Dynamite. White is not only an
excellent action star, but he's also got great comedic timing. His
deadpan delivery mixed in with very impressive martial arts abilities
are worth the price of admission for this flick. White channels Richard
Roundtree, Robert Hooks, Fred Williamson, and yet he makes the role his
own. How White hasn't become a prominent action star, much like Jason
Statham, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jet Li, Tony Jaa, and so on is a
complete mystery to me. I hope that this is a breakout role for him.
One of my favorite characters in this film is Bullhorn (played by Byron Minns). He's the film's answer to Rudy Ray Moore, rhymes and all. For those who have seen Dolemite, you'll know what I'm talking about. (He also narrated the hilarious trailers for the movie.) The film features a cast full of what's his faces. Richard Edson (Stranger than Paradise and Do the Right Thing) has a brief role in the film. Mykelti Williamson (Bubba from Forrest Gump) plays one of the villains, Chicago Wind. Mike Starr (Goodfellas and Dumb & Dumber) plays the mob leader. Arsenio Hall, of all people, plays a coked out hustler named Tasty Freeze. Tommy Davidson, with a head of curly hair, appears as one of Black Dyamite's sidekicks, Cream Corn.
This film is a throwback to the 70's, with the classics of Blaxploitation. It not only has a lot of laughs, but I also felt that the movie essentially became a Blaxploitation within a half-hour into the movie.
If you're a fan of Blaxploitation films, this will not disappoint. If you're in for a good comedy, check this one out. It will provide more laughs than a good majority of the comedies released this year.
Michael Jay White is "Black Dynamite" (if you have seen the movie,
imagine the music, when saying that)! You might have seen him in
"Spawn" or as one of the evil doers in "Dark Knight". Or if you are
into some "B-Action" movies, there are quite a few he made (some of
them even quite good).
Unfortunately he hasn't had his big break yet. Unfortunately and kinda surprisingly, at least for me. Even before watching Black Dynamite, I thought of him as a great actor. And when you watch this you will feel the same way. And you don't even have to be a "Blax-ploitation" expert to enjoy the comedy, that is displayed here!
The movie avoids getting big celebrities in major roles (Arsenio Hall being one of the "biggest" names), which actually makes the movie feel like it could have been shot back in the height of the Blax-ploitation movement! And it's rather a celebration of this "sub-genre" (if you want to call it that), than trying to make it ridiculous! A must-see movie! So full of crazy ideas and great (silly) performances, I can only hope there will be more movies like this in the future!
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