by Corey Hall
Black Dynamite is a bad mutha, tougher than leather, and smooth as butter, so don't even start talking no mess about his movie, you dig?
As a parody of that brief golden era of brash blaxsplotation heroes, this year's Black Dynamite is right on the money, down to its tight, poly pants and broad-flare collars — just a little too on the money, honestly. In fact, the flick's such a scrupulous re-creation of the era, complete with grainy film stock, bad lighting and unnecessary zooms, that the unprepared might think they've stumbled into a grindhouse, circa '74.
Michael Jai White plays the title stud, an indestructible soul brother who's part Richard Roundtree cool, Fred Williamson tough, and Jim Kelly kung-fu, with a hint of Jim Brown verve. Dude's all-action, both in the hood and in the sack.
When his kid brother gets gunned down in a bad drug deal, BD takes a break from the street game to lay the smackdown on any fool dumb enough to get in the way of his vengeance.
As Dynamite plows his way through dope-dealing suckas, he brushes up against all of the genre's stock players — the hustlers, junkies, tricks, orphans, corrupt politicians and Black Power militants — who make the ghetto bloom. Dynamite's homies are also sly winks, Tommy Davidson (Booty Call) gets the Antonio Fargas-like role as fast talking hipster “Cream Corn,” and his main man Bullhorn (Byron Minns) is a slick dresser prone to speaking in Dolemite-style rapping couplets. There's even an Arsenio Hall cameo at a secret pimp conference.
While busting heads, Dynamite uncovers a deep conspiracy, and he rounds up his crew to take the fight to whitey.
The reign of blaxsplotation cinema was short, but its legacy is bold, and actors like White (who co-wrote this script) feel beholden to take a nostalgic stroll down the path blazed by their elders. Sure, it's all been done before, in spoofs from 1988's I'm Gonna Git You Sucka to 2001's Pootie Tang, but this film takes its devotion to the format seriously.
Maybe too seriously; as the joke gets stale quickly, the filmmakers crank up the goofiness leading to a wacky finale. Yet as silly as the spoofed style and Nixon-era race politics are, seeing this many African-American actors starring together in a movie without Tyler Perry's name above the credits is an embarrassing rarity. As it is, Black Dynamite is a warm and pretty funny tribute to an age of guilty pleasures, and if it inspires someone to go hunt down a copy of, say, Three the Hard Way, then, hey, baby, right on.
Showing at the Burton Theatre, 3420 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-473-9238; burtontheatre.com.
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to email@example.com.