Making a movie like "Black Dynamite" is a dicey proposition in the Ironic Hipsterism climate of the past several years. I love a good spoof, but I reserve a special hatey place in my heart for the kind of too-cool-for-school disaffected humor that aims its guns at weird media like an semi-retarded eight-year-old pre-quarterback homing in on the gangly kid in the eyeglasses during dodgeball. It's with enormous glee and pleasure that I'm able to report that "Black Dynamite" is a Valentine to the Blaxploitation action subgenre, made by a team of creative folks who love these movies and totally, utterly, absolutely GET what makes them tick. This isn't merely an extended in-joke, though--this is a genuinely funny comedy that was able to satisfy a very mixed room at the Tribeca Film Festival this past Friday, eliciting laughter from folks who enjoy the idea of vintage 1970s exploitation films as much as from those who are long-time enthusiasts.
To explain too much of what happens during this movie would be to spoil it for future viewers, so I'll avoid this pitfall. I will, however, post the trailer here--I'll wait while you watch it:
I know a bunch of you have already seen this or one of the other permutations of this trailer. I also know that a lot of you were probably every bit as skeptical as I was upon watching clips from this film--excited by the potential for a really, audaciously, amazingly hilarious movie, but concerned that all the funny bits had been distilled into those three minutes. Well, lieblings--allow me to alleviate your fears:
"Black Dynamite" is exactly THAT FUNNY for its entire run-time, which is a really extraordinary achievement.
Whereas the similarly-themed "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka" relies on slapstick, intentional wink-wink "get it?!" moments to build comedy, "Black Dynamite" is funny because it's so close to its source material in visual and acting styles. Michael Jai White channels legendary African-American tough guys like Fred Williamson and Jim Brown in his portrayal of the titular character, a Vietnam vet and former CIA agent and general "THE BEST THERE IS" brand of straight-shooting hero, infusing his performance with an egotistical brand of charisma that's nothing short of brilliant. The supporting cast is equally awesome, from the colorful array of pimps and hustlers that prey upon "The Community" to the militants who support Black Dynamite in his quest to clean up the streets to Tucker Smallwood's pitch-perfect portrayal of a black congressman who is selling out his people to "The Man." No film in the blaxploitation canon is safe from parody, with clear nods to "Dolemite," "Shaft" and "Three the Hard Way" peppered throughout.
While the film never feels un-fresh, it's entirely committed to its period feel, outfitting the cast in gaudy just-pre-disco finery and creating admirably immersive sets. The look and feel of the movie is so well realized that when action footage from a couple of vintage blaxplotation films is worked in, it feels like a cool and subtle sight gag and not a jarring diversion from course.
Adding to the authentic feel of the movie is the hysterically perfect soundtrack, composed with a clear nod to the work of Isaac Hayes and Curtis Mayfield. The songs have a genuine driving funk to them, and first-time soundtrack composer Adrian Younge matches the music to the film flawlessly. Keep your ears peeled for some giggle-worthy soundtrack moments that I'm not ABOUT to spoil for you here.
The greatest thing about "Black Dynamite" is that it's exactly the kind of movie that someone whose interest is piqued by the trailer would want to see--and perhaps an even better one than that. Judging by the audience reaction at Tribeca, look for this film to get some sort of theatrical release in the near future. Keep your eyes LOCKED on BlackDynamite.com for the latest news!