Black Dynamite | Film Review

Blaxplotation is a film genre that emerged in America in the early ’70s targeted at black audiences both in the underground and mainstream sectors. Blaxploitation creators didn’t imagine at the time that they were making art films that would transcend black culture and decades later be considered iconographic, pop royalty and in the process influence the world’s greatest directors.

Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction (1994) has a lot of influences but it’s the Blaxploitation-inspired Samuel L. Jackson character that gave the mocked sub-pop genre a place in the heart of both critics/Oscars and the masses.

It’s essential to highlight Pulp Fiction because beyond being the Blaxploitation style’s biggest triumph, created decades later by a white man who perpetually made the genre commercially viable and loved by all races and credos, it is also considered by many as the greatest film of all time.

The latest addition to the Blaxploitation timeline, Black Dynamite is a fantastic film – it should be used in the contemporary definition of “cult film”.

Screenwriter, producer and Black Dynamite protagonist Michael Jai White is the heart of movie; a perfect self-cast, not unlike the older days when a Bruce Lee look-a-like was cast in Blaxploitation film Motown Mogul produced The last Dragon (1985).

However, this time we have an action hero that is black and has a proven martial arts track on his own, which makes him an ideal cast (and I didn’t know he could be that funny). His body is hero on its own, which makes Black Dynamite a sort of super hero – or as one of the punchlines of the movie suggests…

Who’s that?
Chill, th-th-that’s Black Dynamite..
Who’s he supposed to be? “Super Negro”?

The spaghetti, pulp, cartoonish narrative, black power affirmative talk, post ’60s rebellion location shots, ’70s photography, sound and directing motion flow is flawless. The movie is shot in perfect style making it an almost perfect tribute. Its only flaw lies in perhaps being too long and depending too much on ’70s events.

Everybody knows and can identify with the ghetto, pimps, hit men and vixens but I doubt the younger generation, which I believe is one of the main targets of this homage, will identify with “Watergate” scandal as the crime investigation unfolds in culmination.

Regardless, this is what 2000’s Shaft should have felt like, instead of just having an average soundtrack, giving Sam Jackson a leather jacket and Busta Rhymes a bad accent the movie wasn’t a real Blaxploitation tribute but a heartless commercial exploitation of blaxploitation.

The ’90s gave us Jackie Brown, Pulp Fiction and from the UK Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) (which quotes Blaxploitation soundtracks and characters) and Snatch (1999), all of them classics.

In the ’00s we had Mario Van Peeble‘s fantastic Bad Ass (2003) tribute to his father and now Black Dynamite, a genuine self-mock gem, masterfully directed by Scott Sanders straight to the vault of the genre’s best.

In the future we can expect the already announced Foxy Brown remake starring Halle Berry. The question, is will it have Black Dynamite‘s low budget heart and wit or will it be another frivolous exploitation of the genre?

Power to the people, Peace out brothers.

–Hugo Salvaterra

Black Dynamite opens in cinemas across the UK this Friday.

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