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Blaxploitation was ripe for satire from the get-go but few have been able to get the job done.  I’m Gonna Git You Sucka has its devo­tees but Your Humble Reviewer has always found it to be a slap­dash piece of work that leans on t.v.-level schtick instead of gen­uine, genre-appropriate satire.  The same could be said for Pootie Tang.  Even Undercover Brother, a con­sis­tent and gen­uinely funny film, is more a satire of spy movies than a true blax­ploita­tion sendup.

Thankfully, the wait is over.  Black Dynamite is the real-deal blax­ploita­tion satire that genre fans have been wait­ing for.  Michael Jai White plays the title char­ac­ter, a street­wise enforcer who arms up for revenge when his brother is killed while try­ing to infil­trate a drug ring.  Black Dynamite soon enlists pal Bullhorn (Byron Minns) and some other neigh­bor­hood cats in the fight when they real­ize said drug syn­di­cate is push­ing heroin to orphans(!).  As the super­bad hero fights his way up the syndicate’s ros­ter, he uncov­ers a bizarre con­spir­acy — and the shock­ing secret iden­tity of the man who runs the drug syndicate.

The key to the appeal of Black Dynamite is that it does its sat­i­riz­ing in con­text — instead of try­ing for nos­tal­gia from a mod­ern van­tage point, all ele­ments of the film are designed to make it look and feel a gen­uine blax­ploita­tion entry from the early 1970’s.  Shaun Maurer’s cin­e­matog­ra­phy cap­tures that earthy, grainy look of a low-budgeter from the era and the sound­track mixes gen­uine 1970’s music-library stuff with spot-on approx­i­ma­tions by Adrian Younge.  Younge’s work also includes some hilar­i­ous songs where the lyrics describe what is hap­pen­ing on the screen as it unfolds.

Scott Sanders’ direc­tion weaves all the retro touches into a con­vinc­ing period film­mak­ing feel.  He goes for an approach that is 80% dead­pan approx­i­ma­tion and 20% break­ing the fourth wall.  There are occa­sional ill-timed cam­era moves, con­ti­nu­ity errors and wonky action chore­og­ra­phy but he doesn’t overdo them.  Such moments are included to cre­ate the feel of a quickly-made cheapie instead of end­lessly leaned on as cheap gags.  He also main­tains a tight, ener­getic pace that keeps the gags flow­ing at a Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker speed.  The result is fast and funny enough that it can be enjoyed by those who aren’t blax­ploita­tion fanatics.

Best of all, the script for Black Dynamite pro­vides a firm basis for all the rapid-fire comedic riff­ing.  The story, devised by stars White and Minns with direc­tor Sanders, shows the trio did their blax­ploita­tion home­work: scenes, plot devices and char­ac­ters explic­itly ref­er­ence films like Slaughter’s Big Rip-Off, Three The Hard Way and Dolemite but the many ref­er­ence points are woven into a nicely com­pos­ited homage.  More impor­tantly, all the gags are struc­tured around a tight, involved plot­line that is as engag­ing and out­landish as the jokes them­selves. In fact, the plot devel­op­ments are often funny on their own: a great exam­ple is a hilar­i­ous scene where Black Dynamite and his friends fig­ure out the con­spir­acy using the most absurd clues and logic imaginable.

Finally, and most impor­tantly, the per­for­mances drive the mate­r­ial home.  All the main actors keep the schtick con­sis­tent with their char­ac­ter­i­za­tions and in some cases do lov­ing trib­utes to blax­ploita­tion icons: for instance, Tommy Davidson’s per­for­mance as a dan­di­fied pimp called Cream Corn is a lov­ing send-up of Antonio Fargas and Byron Minns does a pretty amus­ing Rudy Ray Moore impres­sion as Bullhorn.  There’s also some nice sup­port in cameos from gen­uine actors like Mykelti Williamson and Bokeem Woodbine, each pro­vid­ing solid, non-flashy per­for­mances for the come­di­ans to bounce off of.

However, the movie’s biggest and best attribute is Michael Jai White’s per­for­mance as the title char­ac­ter.  It is both pas­tiche and legit­i­mate action-star turn all at once.  In his per­for­mance, he has man­aged to fuse the detached deliv­ery of Jim Brown, the effort­less cool of Bernie Casey and the dex­ter­ous, showy yet odd-looking kung fu of Jim Kelly into a seam­less whole.  He nails every gag and witty line with dead­pan skill and per­forms admirably in the action scenes (White is actu­ally a real-life mar­tial arts pro).  He’s hilar­i­ous with­out resort­ing to mug­ging or obvi­ous schtick and he shows a real star qual­ity despite the performance’s par­ody angle.

To sum up, Black Dynamite is the smart, lovingly-crafted par­ody blax­ploita­tion fans have been wati­ing.   It will slot in nicely on the DVD shelf along­side your Fred Williamson, Pam Grier and Rudy Ray Moore flicks.  What you waitin’ for, you jive mutha?