If many of its actors weren’t recognizable under their Seventies wigs and exquisitely awful costumes, you’d think Scott Sanders’ Black Dynamite was a strangely well-maintained, entertaining piece of blaxploitation that came rolling out of a time capsule. A spot-on parody and loving homage, the film is far more engaging than those of the era, but technically could double for any Jim Brown/Pam Grier/Rudy Ray Moore flick. The filmmakers make a point of allowing boom mics to dip into scenes, mis-timed edits, bad line readings of exposition-heavy dialogue and nervous, shifting camerawork that smacks of the low-low budget style of the times.
Clumsy storytelling also gets its due, as pinpointed in one flashback: “I am 18-year-old Black Dynamite, and you are 16-year-old Jimmy, my brother. Now who gave you those drugs?” Scenes are frequently punctuated by bombastic musical cues (often accompanied by repeated shouts of “Dynamite” every time the main character shows up, does something, or prepares to leave).
Black Dynamite (Michael Jai White, who conjured up the idea and worked with Sanders on the script) is a seven-woman-bedding, kung-fu-fighting, former CIA agent whose only mission seems to be helping the neighborhood stay clean from pushers, mob bosses and corrupt cops. When his brother Jimmy is killed during a deal (Jimmy’s brief portrayal is a priceless send-up of the formally-trained black actor attempting to sound “jive” for a street role), Black Dynamite follows a trail of drugs, money and corruption from the streets all the way to the highest corridors of power. On the way he deals with numerous characters, all with outrageous names (best friend Bullhorn; pimp Cream Corn; crime boss Chicago Wind), and befriends a militant woman trying to bring down a dirty politician. With nun-chucks and kung-fu always ready, Black Dynamite can’t be stopped.
And special kudos go to any film that features a character known simply as Captain Kangaroo Pimp.
To use their lingo, Black Dynamite takes watered down parodies and blaxploitation imitators and “puts its ankle into it”.