TADFF 09: Black Dynamite

Andrew Mack, Contributing Writer

Someone's killed Black Dynamite's little brother. Some sucka's gonna pay. Black Dynamite goes on a no holds barred rampage through town taking out fools who take money from hos and sell drugs to the community. Little does he know that this conspiracy goes much farther than just your run of the mill local drug dealer or drug kingpin. Dynamite follows this conspiracy to its origins and the mastermind behind this scheme will shock and amuse you. A climactic battle of nun chucks is just around the corner.

The gauntlet has been thrown down! But not before it was roundhouse kicked, slapped around and stomped on with platform shoes! Black Dynamite not only roared onto the screen for the Opening Gala for this year's edition of the Toronto After Dark Film Festival but proclaimed to all the other suckas out there that they better come prepared. Black Dynamite is an absolute blast from start to finish. It is not often that I have been this thoroughly entertained by a film.

As Black Dynamite Michael Jai White brings the funk, the pleasure and the pain dishing out all in equal portions. Never mind you asking for seconds; he keeps dishing it out! White is walking in the footsteps, but never in the shadows, of some very strong brothers: Jim Kelly and Richard Roundtree are obvious choices because of their impact and presence in 70s black cinema. And sometimes his boots are bigger than those footprints. He makes the character Dynamite all his own, honouring them and making his mark. Already a proven martial artist his skills are in top form. Roger Yuan and Ron Yuan both do a great job of bringing out the best in his skills. White's numerous black belts are surely what are holding up those fine polyester slacks. White also displays are great grasp of comedy and timing whether it be a sight gag or a one liner. During the Q&A afterwards, director Scott Sanderson really played down his role in the screenplay writing and the original story was all White and Byron Minns, who plays Dynamite's friend Bullhorn in the film. They together have shown enough tact and discretion when to be funny, when to make fun of something and when to be funky and sexy.

Amongst the bevy of supporting actors and icons from the black entertainment industry there were a couple standouts for me. Salli Richardson-Whitfield is smooth and sexy as Gloria the young black woman who is trying to make a difference in her community and get the neighbourhood kids off smack. I've always been a fan of Eureka and let's be honest Salli is not unpleasant to look at. But they did right to get an actor who is familiar to playing a strong female character in a show known for its comedic outburst. She rolls with the punchlines and fends off Dynamite's rich chocolaty goodness longer than anyone can. Another pleasant surprise was Tommy Davidson. I can't help but think of Antonio Fargas when I see Tommy in the role of Cream Corn. Channelling the actor known for the role of Huggy Bear is not at all a bad thing. Tommy, it would appear that I have missed you all these years. It's good to see you again.

Where a movie like I'm Gonna Get You Sucka parodies the 70s blaxploitation genre Black Dynamite feels like it has always been a part of that canon as if White and Sanderson found an excellent print of a film from that era and were screening it for us that night. It felt that authentic! I would rather get a film that pays homage and respects the genre and all its intricacies than one that makes fun of it and takes it for granted. All the efforts of late to mimic or pay homage to grindhouse cinema pale in comparison to this gem of a film. Black Dyanamite brings the pain, the funk and the funny.

Tell me the next time you open a door or enter a room you don't want a chorus of funky background singers to sing 'Dynamite! Dynamite!'. Tell me you don't want that! I dare you!

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