Monday, November 15, 2010

“Your knowledge of scientific biological transmogrification is only outmatched by your zest for kung-fu treachery!”

Arguably the most (in)famous exploitation subgenre is Blaxploitation. It arose in the 1970s and essentially comprised gritty crime plots, shootouts, sex and frequently martial arts starring a predominantly black cast. The soundtracks were funky and/or groovy, production values were generally low and the acting was spotty. In short, perfect fodder for cult films (and believe me, brother, we’re gonna get to some of them in due time). Today’s subject is actually 2009’s homage/parody of the films, Black Dynamite.

This is gonna get complicated. It starts with the mob killing a police mole. That mole turns out to be the younger brother of Black Dynamite (Michael Jai White), a kung-fu master who’s a veteran of the Army AND CIA who sets out on an investigative rampage of revenge to get the bastards who killed his brother. Along the way, he recruits a team to help him: Cream Corn (Tommy Davidson), the rhyme-spouting Bullhorn (Byron Minns) and a group of Black Power militants led by Saheed (Phil Morris). He also starts up a relationship with community activist Gloria (Salli Richardson-Whitfield). Black Dynamite and his crew proceed to wage a ruthless war on drugs and uncover a conspiracy that connects to the mad science of the Fiendish Dr. Wu (Roger Yuan).

If I say anything else, it’d be spoilers of the worst kind, and that would be a real shame. Suffice it to say that there is no shortage of gunfights, car chases, kung fu, boobies and dirty words.

Directed by Scott Sanders with Cinematography by Shawn Maurer, the film is shot in the old Blaxploitation style and set in the 70s, so it really plays up the color saturation and so on. Some of the greatest gags the movie offers are visual, where all manner of “errors” (like bad editing, continuity, and crew goofs) abound intentionally. It is outstanding how they’re integrated, like when Black Dynamite is giving a serious speech and occasionally looks up at the boom mike dangling into frame but keeps talking. Stuff like that.

Screenplay by Michael Jai White, Byron Minns & Scott Sanders. The screenplay is just as solid of a parody as the visual style and acting are. The plot starts out simple but spirals into something sublimely ludicrous. The dialogue is fantastic, even when it’s not spinning new and exciting variants on established profanity.

Original music by Adrian Younge and it is FUNKY in the best possible way. Some of the songs provide hilariously unnecessary exposition as they narrate what’s going on. Black Dynamite himself has an audio sting that hits whenever he does something incredibly badass. It’s good stuff.

Black Dynamite is a work of genius because it works as a comedy and a straightforward Blaxploitation film. I can’t sing my praises for it enough, and the many people I’ve forced to watch it can attest to it. And every one of them has walked away satisfied. Watch this movie ASAP.

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