Parody movies seem to be making a resurgence as of late, which is fantastic because they’re often the richest source of humor and “best of” style collaborations. However they can also be a source of much displeasure and annoyance (i.e., the “(fill in word here) Movie” films, all of which have stemmed from the Scary Movie outing which was entertaining…just the subsequent 20 others weren’t), so I approach new entries into the genre with caution. So when I say that Black Dynamite may very well be the funniest and most enjoyable parody film in decades then it actually means something (to me at least) as I grew up with the Mel Brooks, National Lampoon and Naked Gun films so I’d like to think I know a good parody film when I see one.
An all-star cast led by Michael Jai White is featured in this 1970’s-style blaxploitation action film about the legendary super crime fighter “Black Dynamite.” The Man killed his brother, pumped heroin into local orphanages, and flooded the ghetto with adulterated malt liquor. Black Dynamite was the one hero willing to fight The Man all the way from the blood-soaked city streets to the hallowed halls of the Honky House.
There is already something misleading in the above synopsis—there really isn’t an “all-star” cast in this film. Aside from White and a few other comedians that have grown popular via television series over the years, Black Dynamite is a cast filled with familiar faces, but hardly something I’d bill as an all-star outing. Not that it matters as everyone from White to Arsenio Hall are nothing short of hilarious in their performances in this film. There’s never a moment of bad acting that makes you cringe (that’s not intentional in some way) and whether it’s the in-camera shots of a boom mic, awkward look towards the camera or a spontaneous actor change mid-fight, it’s a film that just keeps on giving with the visual gags.
Not that it limits itself to that. No, it’s full of dialogue that will send you into frequent spats of laughter. The film starts out subtly enough that you aren’t sure if you’re supposed to laugh at it or if it’s just supposed to be a tongue-in-cheek type thing. But soon White is recounting a ridiculously gruesome and violent story about a kid he saw die during a war and by the end of the story (and a ridiculous spout of non-sense from Black Dynamite’s mouth as he tries to repeat what he heard the child say to him…in Chinese), you realize that this film is something you should be laughing at. From that point on the film is relentless, ripping through staples of the “blaxploitation action films” that are as cheesy as they are entertaining. Whether it’s the playing of his theme each time he enters the room or the action moves that he performs on just about everyone, the film is never not entertaining.
It takes some leaps in logic (which actually comprises about four minutes as Black Dynamite and Co. gather in a restaurant and construct the most absolutely ridiculous conclusion to a random clue…but the whole scene is awesome so it’s hard to call that a fault), but that’s honestly part of the films charm. It makes sense in the most rudimentary of senses of course, but the films plot really is so nonsensical that you would be better off just ignoring it and going along with the ride. I mean the plot goes from the streets where orphaned children are doing drugs (which culminates in one of the funniest scenes of the film as Black Dynamite attempts to shake the drugs out of a kid) all the way to the White House where Black Dynamite has to eventually apologize to the First Lady for “pimp slapping” her “into the China cabinet.”
The film is full of hilarious moments and I would be here for another hour or two were I to list them all. Michael Jai White is to be commended for this production though—I honestly didn’t expect much going in but it truly is one of the absolute best parody/mock/tribute style of films I’ve seen in years. It’s definitely a lot more salty in dialogue (and nudity) than other films I was used to in my youth, but in the end it all comes back to the extremely weird situations and dialogue that these characters get into. And aside from the random insertion of cartoon sex which still confuses me a bit to this day, the film itself is just nearly perfect from a comedic standpoint. Highly Recommended.
Sony releases Black Dynamite onto Blu-ray in a standard Elite Blu-ray case. Inserts are the usual advertisements for the format and…well, that’s it. Menu’s are simple and easy to navigate, but there’s no cardboard slipcover (not that I wanted one) or anything fancy to help it pop off the shelf (well nothing aside from the humorous cover art anyway). Hopefully it’ll do well enough that we see a sequel…I could see this becoming a very entertaining franchise as long as White sticks to it.
Video is an AVC encoded 1080p transfer and has all the right hooks mixed into it. It’s crystal clear on one side but on the other it’s heavily filtered and grained up to look like a classic 70’s low-budget flick. Colors and blacks are slightly muddied at times, but detail is still exceptionally high as evidenced whenever White has his shirt off (or on for that matter). You can’t really fault this transfer for the flaws it does have as they’re likely all intentional. It’s just that type of production and watching it on Blu-ray really is a great experience, grain, specks of dust and overblown coloring or not.
Audio is a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix and being an action film it’s pretty nicely spaced out. Surrounds are almost always active and the subwoofer has a few nice plays of LFE output, but for the most part I was kind of surprised as to how quiet the film was. It had a lot of nice explosions and whatnot so it’s not a disappointing track, but it is mildly underwhelming in the sense that there wasn’t even more subwoofer blasts or explicit surround usage. Still, it’s definitely entertaining and worth watching the film in full surround if you have the available setup.
Extras are rather scant sadly enough, but there’s still an hour or two worth of material to check out:
BD Exclusive: MovieIQ – connects you to access real-time information on the cast, music, trivia and more while watching the movie!
Filmmaker and Cast Commentary – with actor/co-writer Michael Jai White, co-writer Byron Minns, and director/co-writer Scott Sanders
Deleted and Alternate Scenes (25:15, SD)
BD Exclusive: The ’70s: Back in Action Featurette (14:13, 1080p)
Making-of Featurette (22:48, 1080p)
The Comic-Con Experience (18:04, 1080i)
The commentary is the main star here, as all three participants are lively, entertaining, and most importantly of all funny to listen to. There’s some great knowledge dropped in the track about the production of the film and while there’s some overlap with the making-of featurette, there’s still plenty of insight in the track to make it a worthwhile listen for the viewer. The deleted scenes are humorous but mostly superfluous (as they always are) and the making-of tackles a wide array of concepts, most interestingly enough the use of 16mm on the film (which is interesting to see that after all of the Red-One camera extras I’ve watched lately). The Comic-Con Experience is a bit dated but still worth checking out and the BD Exclusive “Back in Action” is just the cast and crew reminiscing about their experiences from the 70s that helped influence and shape this film.
Overall it’s a solid package and one that comes Highly Recommended. Yeah, the extras are light but the film is just too hilarious to pass up and you’ll definitely be watching it more than once so this is definitely one to own.
Black Dynamite arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on February 16th.