Thursday, February 18, 2010

BLACK DYNAMITE

I've been looking forward to this Blaxploitation parody for more than a year now, ever since catching a teaser trailer for it online. Now that I've actually watched BLACK DYNAMITE (2009), I'm pleased to say that it not only lived up to my high expectations, but exceeded them.

Black Dynamite (Michael Jai White, SPAWN) is an ex-CIA agent, karate expert and pimp who protects his neighborhood from drug dealers and Caucasian gangsters. When his brother is murdered, he sets out on a mission of vengeance that takes him and his crew from the streets of the ghetto to Kung Fu Island and even to the Oval Office itself!

A remarkably dead-on satire of 1970's black exploitation films, BLACK DYNAMITE nails pretty much every convention and trope of that distinctive genre, and then exaggerates them brilliantly for maximum comic effect. Martial arts expert White - who also co-produced and co-wrote the film - has created the ultimate Blaxploitation protagonist: deftly combining Jim Brown's dignity, Fred Williamson's confidence, Richard Roundtree's charm and Jim Kelly's kung fu moves in one, badass character. He's a joy to watch, and he's been surrounded by an extremely talented and game cast who know that the key to successfully spoofing something is to play it utterly straight and let the absurdities of the situations and dialogue get the laughs.

As directed by Scott Sanders, BLACK DYNAMITE almost perfectly mimics the films it's making fun of, with flawless production design, period costumes, and carefully chosen locations. The action scenes are shot in the classic 70's style (which I still prefer over today's hyperkinetic montages), and the music is written, performed and recorded analog. I was also impressed that the filmmakers eschewed today's cheap digital video, instead shooting on old 16mm stock, with the oversaturated colors and grain inherent in the format. Beautiful. (Only the opening titles looked a little too modern to me, but, hey, I'll forgive them since they got everything else so right.)

Sony's DVD features a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital sound. The picture quality is great - and looks exactly as if it had been filmed in 1973. There's not a lot of supplemental features, but what there is is very satisfying. There's a really great and entertaining audio commentary by the cast and crew, a comprehensive "Making Of" featurette, alternate and deleted scenes, video footage from the BLACK DYNAMITE panel at the 2009 San Diego Comic Con, and trailers for a bunch of other Sony DVDs (including Michael Jai White in BLOOD & BONE). The only glaring omission is the fantastic trailer for BLACK DYNAMITE itself.

Obviously, I loved this movie. My jaw literally hurt from smiling and laughing non-stop for 84 minutes. If you're a fan of 70's era urban action films, BLACK DYNAMITE is an absolute must-see. Even if you're not, it's still highly recommended.

BUY: Black Dynamite