3 September 2010

Supergood- BLACK DYNAMITE Review

A few weeks back, I was lamenting the underpowered villains in The Expendables. On Monday, I went to see Black Dynamite, and realised that if Sylvester Stallone had come up with the villain and his plot to use in The Expendables, he probably would have made the greatest film ever. Instead, it was thought up by Michael Jai White, Scott Sanders and Byron Minns, in this superb blaxploitation parody.

Black Dynamite is the baddest, coolest, kung-fu-fighting-est "CIA agent that the CIA ever had in the CIA." He's brought back on the job when The Man murders his brother and someone gets all the kids in the local orphanage hooked on smack. So Black Dynamite assembles a crew to wage war against drug dealers in the community- sex scenes, kung fu fighting and sheer badassery ensue.

Yes, dear readers, sheer badassery. Like the best parodies, there's no mean streak in Black Dynamite. Our hero never breakdances before being flattened by a cow as in so many turds from Seltzer and Friedberg. It's not even content to rib on the tropes of the genre like Mike Myers did in the Austin Powers films. There's a love of the material akin to the works of Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, and an authenticity that makes the film feel like it really was made in the 1970s.

There are stock footage explosions, boom mic intrusions, shonky dialogue and one instance of an outtake being left in the middle of a fight scene. The intrusion of the soundtrack is always welcome, especially given how the score and the rather catchy theme music capture the era as perfectly as the visuals. It's highly competent incompetence, deliberately processing the film even after all of their attention to detail so that it looks like it was made in the period.

Part of what makes the actual comedy so effective is Michael Jai White's deadpan performance in the lead role. He's the only real anachronism in the film, because he's recognisable as the mobster who put a price on the Joker's head in The Dark Knight, but that's excusable just because of how good he is. He simply plays Black Dynamite as a badass.

Not a comedy badass, but a full-on badass- White has seven black belts in real life and he really throws himself into the part. He obviously co-wrote a great script too. Having built a profile for himself as a second-string action star through the years, he came up with the idea to make this film. If there's any justice, it'll be the film that propels him into the limelight.

It's curious that Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino are generally seen to have failed to duplicate the exploitation films of their youth with the Grindhouse two-fer. Those films winked and nudged and had many "name" actors. Black Dynamite trades that for a meticulous recreation of the blaxploitation genre's values and staples, without ever missing a chance for a quotable line of dialogue or a laugh-out-loud sight gag.

The script has an acute sense of off-beat storytelling that other recent exploitation throwbacks like Piranha didn't come within reaching distance of. Audacious execution alone isn't any substitute for the understanding and affection that obviously exists here. Because Sanders isn't the type of director to wink or nudge at the audience, there are probably dozens of references and sight gags that I didn't catch first time around- once again, like Pegg and Wright. As you'll know, that's high praise, but the film really deserves it.

It's difficult to write about good comedy, especially when I'm being very careful not to spoil some of the great punchlines in this one. I will assure you that if you live in the UK, it's well worth a minute or so of your time to go to this site and demand that Black Dynamite comes to your area. White has expressed the desire to make sequels, and once you see it, you'll really want to see more- support it now and make that come to pass!

Black Dynamite is playing in select cinemas nationwide- like I said, demand it here!
If you've seen Black Dynamite, why not leave a comment on the film and/or my review? Need any more incentive to see this one? Here's the poster.

Looks awesome, nay?

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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