Black Dynamite (2009)
By: Devon B. on July 22, 2012  | 
Universum Film | Region B | 1.78:1, 1080p | English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 | 84 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Scott Sanders
Starring: Michael Jai White, Tommy Davidson, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Byron Minns, Arsenio Hall
Screenplay: Michael Jai White, Byron Minns, Scott Sanders
Country: USA
External Links
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I did things backwards with blaxploitation, and introduced myself to the genre via the parody I'm Gonna Git You Sucka. The film had its moments, but overall I was underwhelmed enough that I didn't revisit blaxploitation until I was assigned to review its horror film sub-genre. Once again, I did things in reverse and started with the only good movie, Blacula, and worked my way down to one of the worst pieces of shit I've ever endured, Sugar Hill. After that, I never had the strength to invest in the action blaxploitation movies, and if it weren't for Rudy Ray Moore's Avenging Disco Godfather, I could claim to have never even seen a blaxploitation action movie. Despite not being a fan of the genre when I saw the trailer for Black Dynamite, a send up of the 70s blaxploitation action flick, I got really excited. A problem arose when I found myself regionally locked out of the US Blu-ray. I needn't have worried because Germany, the nation most synonymous with comedy, was to the rescue as usual. I'm still surprised this got a Blu release in Germany because I don't think it translates well. One need only look at the translated tagline, which no longer rhymes, to see that at least a little bit has been lost, but if the Krauts wanna help us Region B'ers out, that's fine by me.

Black Dynamite starts with a man getting set up and gunned down. Unfortunately, the guy was the brother of Black Dynamite (Michael Jai White), a dude not to be trifled with. Black Dynamite comes to settle the score and as promised he is a potent army of one. His quest for vengeance and the truth sees him involved with militants, orphans, smack and a conspiracy theory so deep it puts that Mel Gibson movie to shame.

I wasn't impressed with White's acting in Exit Wounds, but he fuckin' nails this. White isn't playing Black Dynamite exactly, he's playing the actor who is playing Black Dynamite, and the idea is that Black Dynamite is a low budget, ridiculous action movie. There's no film-within-a-film wrap around, but there are several references to the fact that this is a movie that's being made and things don't always go right. Sometimes the cast will clearly realise something's not gone right, and the female lead, played by Salli Richardson-Whitfield, constantly exudes the air of someone that knows she's taking part in something stupid but is going along with it because it's in the script. There's so much overacting here that it makes the cast of Friends look understated, but the supporting cast are all great in creating the tone Black Dynamite was aiming for.

Everyone is perfectly cast for what they're doing, but White carries this movie and he carries it well. His performance recalls Jim Brown, Jim Kelly, Richard Roundtree, Fred Williamson and probably dozens of other stars I don't even know about, and he's the reason the whole movie works as well as it does. Because, while Black Dynamite is very, very funny, it also works as an action movie. An inconceivably silly action movie, but an action movie nonetheless. White can fight and while at times he's recreating the stiltedness from 70s movies, there's no denying the guy's impressive skills. He's also a big dude, so when he recreates Bruce Lee's jump-kick-the-ceiling-light-out trick, it's a truly frightening move. White is so goddamn good in Black Dynamite that it transcends its satirical origins and also becomes the ultimate blaxploitation movie. You know, one where some stuff actually happens.

I was pleasantly surprised that Black Dynamite worked on two levels, but that doesn't change the fact that at its core it is a comedy, and a very successful one that will require multiple viewings to catch all the jokes. For example, my favourite gag was a blink and you'll miss it moment where a fight scene goes wrong and an actor has to be replaced. This wasn't a movie that I was gently amused with and occasionally chuckled at, it made me guffaw repeatedly, and given I'm not very familiar with blaxploitation action movies, I think it's safe to say the movie works whether you know the genre or not. There's naturally a lot of riffing on staples of the genre, like casual racism, or the hero worship of the lead character, but these gags shouldn't go over the head of a casual viewer. Some of the dialogue is intentionally stupid for satirical reasons, but there're also some really, really clever moments. The film takes elements of the blaxploitation genre to the extreme, then just keeps going with them. There are some jokes that may seem to break from the theme that Black Dynamite is a poorly made 70s action film, but I thought most of these still worked in the construct, satirising the type of dumb jokes that could turn up in those films. Still, at times the movie is too silly to take it as a "serious" 70s action movie, but if the main flaw in a comedy is that it's being funny, there ain't a lot to complain about. Probably the main thing that people will find too outré is the climax, but I honestly thought that was a logical place for the film to go. In order to satirise something, it has to be taken to a previously unseen extreme, and the final fight does seem like the next step up from blaxploitation conspiracies involving The Man.

Black Dynamite is not a Naked Gun or Austin Powers type thing. This is not a Lobster Man from Mars type thing. This is more of a Starship Troopers thing, a film that plays with the genre it's part of, but still works as a good film by the definitions of that genre. This isn't an intentional so-bad-it's-good, the idea was to recreate the feel of those cheaply made 70s movies. I guess technically the makers failed, because Black Dynamite is way better than anything I've seen from the genre that inspired it.
The movie's presented at a slightly cropped 1.78:1 ratio. A video analysis is pretty pointless because this is meant to look like a low budget movie from the 70s. It was filmed on a stock prone to black crush, the colours are awful, the whole film looks tinted and is awash with grain. The only things I would call flaws in the transfer were some very minor edge enhancement and a little macroblocking, so really Black Dynamite is an almost perfect representation of how the film is meant to look.
Audio is available in English or German 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mixes, and they sounded of similar quality when sampled I between them. The film's soundtrack is awesome and gets very specific about the movie, and it sounds fantastic here. Gunshots, explosions, kicks and punches all sound good, but sometimes there's an intentional 70s type sounds effect that obviously isn't up to today's standards. There is one little sequence in Chinese and there're no English subs on the disc. I could understand the four or five lines using the German subs, but this may be a problem for those that lack my very rudimentary understanding of the German language.
Extra Features
The cover is reversible and the other side doesn't have the big rating on it. The Blu-ray has a 22 minute making of, which includes clips from the original trailer used to drum up funding, and covers things like women's roll in the 70s movies, costuming, little things people might've missed and the amazing score. The feature is in English and has no subtitles. Also included, and also lacking subs, are deleted, alternate and extended scenes, which are not 16x9 enhanced and are sometimes raw footage. There's some more awesomeness here, but also some of this stuff was wisely cut or trimmed for pacing reasons. The best moments turn up in the montage or the end credits, so nothing too important got removed. The comic con panel featurette runs about 18 minutes, and includes the perfect way to describe the movie: A blaxploitation picture turned up to 11. There's also a collection of soundbytes, I guess in case someone really liked a line but didn't want to watch the movie to hear it again? Sadly, this Blu-ray does not include the commentary or the featurette about the 70s found on the US release. I'm not precious about extras, but do like to get all the extras that people overseas got, and probably would've really enjoyed the commentary. To help relieve the sting, this German Blu does include the Black Firecracker TNT skits and the hilarious Fight Smack in the Orphanage viral video campaign, and the US Blu does not. The German Blu also has German language trailers for the film and for From Paris With Love, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Superhero Movie, Burn After Reading and Taxi 4. Lastly, there's a BD live thing, but my player's not online so I don't know what that has. Really, the only features that're not English friendly are the trailers.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Black Dynamite should entertain people that have a sense of humour, people that like action and people that like ludicrously over the top action. The movie demands a sequel, and even if it doesn't, I do. If this Blu had the commentary it'd be an easy recommendation for me, but its lack is one I find hard to overlook. At least I can own the film in high definition without buying a new, region switchable, Blu-ray player.

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