Black Dynamite Review
By Rich Cline
This outrageously wacky blaxploitation pastiche keeps us laughing nonstop for its first hour, simply because it plays everything dead straight. After this point, it may still be sharply funny, but the thrill is gone.
Muscled ladies' man Black Dynamite (White) is a legend in 1970s drug-ridden Los Angeles. When his brother is murdered in a drug deal gone wrong, he teams with his former CIA colleague O'Leary (Chapman) to solve the mystery. He gets help from his pals, the flaming Cream Corn (Davidson) and tough-guy Bullhorn (Minns), and also has time to romance the orphanage activist Gloria (Richardson). And the trail to the killer leads him through the kung fu treachery of the fiendish Dr Wu (Yuan) right to Tricky Dicky's White House.
Director Sanders hilariously captures the period through an exaggerated production design that's packed with gigantic afros, huge jewellery, pimp-mobiles and costumes that look like lurid wallpaper. The grainy, brown-hued cinematography sometimes struggles amusingly to keep up with Dynamite's quick moves, and the film is packed with wobbly camerawork, groovy songs, gratuitous screen-splitting and an hysterical barrage of musical stings.
And then there's the dialog, which is unapologetically absurd and delivered with straight-faced precision by the up-for-it cast. White is almost always shirtless, flexing his muscles and riotously growling his way through each scene, punctuating most lines with "Can you dig it?" Black Dynamite's way with the ladies is superbly well-played, generating terrific chemistry with Richardson, Whitley and others. And the starry supporting characters, all of whom have witty names, all get big laughs along the way.
It's a bit frustrating that the inventiveness seems to dry up about halfway through. The filmmakers maintain the comical tone, but don't take it anywhere else; the movie gets too bogged down in the irrelevant plot while repeating the same jokes and continuing the clever running gags. Sanders continually finds ingenious ways around his limited budget, such as using creaky old footage to add stunts and explosions to action sequences. But by the end, we begin to think it might have worked even better as a 30-minute comedy sketch.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Wednesday 13th January 2010
Distributed by: Sony Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Fresh: 50 Rotten: 9
Cast & Crew
Producer: Jenny Wiener Steingart, Jon Steingart
Starring: Michael Jai White as Black Dynamite, Arsenio Hall as Tasty Freeze, Tommy Davidson as Cream Corn, Kevin Chapman as O'Leary, Richard Edson as Dino, Bokeem Woodbine as Black Hand Jack, Buddy Lewis as Gunsmoke, Salli Richardson-Whitfield as Gloria Gray, Irwin Keyes as Henchman, Miguel A. Núñez, Jr. as Mo Bitches (as Miguel Nunez), Nicole Ari Parker as Mahogany Black, Salli Richardson-Whitfield as Gloria, John Salley as Kotex, Mike Starr as Rafelli, Nicole Sullivan as Patricia Nixon, Mykelti Williamson as Chicago Wind, Cedric Yarbrough as Chocolate Giddy-Up, Roger Yuan as Fiendish Dr. Wu, Tucker Smallwood as Congressman Monroe James, Phil Morris as Saheed, Obba Babatunde as Osiris (as Obba Babatunde), Kym Whitley as Honey Bee, William Bassett as Captain Yancy, Byron Minns as Bullhorn