Sitges 09: BLACK DYNAMITE Review
[Yes, we've given this one lots of love already, but with its appearance at the 2009 Sitges Festival I present my review of Black Dynamite once again. The release is just around the corner, get out and see it!]
With Black Dynamite director Scott Sanders and writer-producer-star Michael Jai White have succeeded in doing precisely what Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez promised but failed to deliver with Grindhouse. They have captured the spirit of a long gone era and done so in hugely entertaining fashion. Far too loving to ever descend into spoof or parody territory, Black Dynamite also rises above tribute territory thanks to White's portrayal of the title character. No mere regurgitation or mimicry here, Black Dynamite is strong enough and accurate enough that it could be a lost nugget from the blaxploitation era itself.
Michael Jai White is Black Dynamite: former CIA operative, war veteran and baddest brother on the block. His skills in kung fu are prodigious, his skills with the ladies even moreso. He goes where he pleases, does what and who he wants, and keeps a watchful eye on the weak and powerless, dispensing his brand of strong-arm justice to keep the neighborhood in line. Black Dynamite is the prototypical lone wolf, answering to no one, until his reformed-junkie brother is gunned down by local mafia and he is called back into action by his former CIA partners to bring down those responsible, a mission that leads him to a massive conspiracy to subdue the black population using drugged malt liquor - a conspiracy that reaches all the way up into the White House itself.
No doubt about it, Black Dynamite falls very much at the comedy end of the spectrum, poking very knowledgable fun at the foibles and quirks of the blaxploitation genre. Dialogue is deliberately stilted, boom mikes creep into shots, the musical accompaniment frequently - and hysterically - doubles as narration, and every sort of character stereotype possible is thrown up on screen. In lesser hands this would have come across as ham-fisted parody or - worse - smug superiority but everyone involved here is so knowledgable and respectful of the source material that it's impossible not to get swept up in the spirit of the thing. Do they get the look accurate? Put it this way: several scenes of actual 1970s stock footage are integrated into the film so seamlessly that it's impossible to tell where the original footage ends and the stock footage begins.
Brash, energetic, funky and loaded both with kung fu treachery and guns that never run out of bullets, Black Dynamite is pure entertainment. White is already on record saying that he wants to bring Black Dynamite back for a sequel and in these books that can't happen soon enough.