68. Black Dynamite


Not being versed in Blaxploitation, and not having followed up with the animated series, I may not be so primed for BD. But outside all context, Black Dynamite is a film where, when the hero walks through a doorway or into a scene -DYNOMITE, DYNOMITE – plays to a snippet of music. The look on his face — that stone stoicism, that moustache — the music, and the colors of the movie tell you in a flash just what kind of film this is.

Released in 2009, nearby The Expendables and Predators, Black Dynamite represents the best neo-grindhouse film ever made, that brief (in retrospect) trend among indie filmmakers kickstarted by the Rodriguez/Tarantino collaboration, which was good, but spawned some lame spin-offs. Machete was bland and offensively tame, Hobo with a Shotgun was good but certifiable, and although I’ll eventually check out the Soska Sisters’ Dead Hooker in a Trunk, movies with titles like that and Bitch Slap! just make me tired.

Black Dynamite swoops in and isn’t content to merely poke fun at a genre. What it trades in brutality and exploitation it gains in pure comic genius. Michael Jai White is a revelation, the rare hybrid of funnyman and convincing screen fighter, and this blend, plus charisma, calls to mind Bruce Lee. Surround him with a cast of amazingly named and equally committed characters like Bullhorn and Cream Corn, and we have picture.

Like all great comedies, Black Dynamite is endlessly quotable, and so the perfect script here is married to loving direction and these images that are in turn absurd (guy in a donut costume rolling away) and funny/badass (the next shot of BD grimacing, gun in the air).

The grindhouse gags are funny because they’re taken to the next level. In Planet Terror, they’re funny because Rodriguez is funny, and when we jumpcut to the restaurant on fire — that’s a chuckle. In Black Dynamite, a ‘bad take’ that’s left in means a guy getting slapped and the ‘hero’ of the moment breaking character by flinching at his ‘victim’s’ starting forward and “son of a bitch.”

But there’s also just straight up brilliance divorced of grindhouse, and sometimes even divorced of Blaxploitation. Black Dynamite sometimes feels like a guy who’s teleported into the Blaxploitation world, particularly with the line about throwing things into rooms — who trolls the main villain like that?

He’s somebody that you watch and he does things you don’t see coming, but always welcome. Whether it’s instant blind rage at a woman completing his smooth one-liner, or gouging someone’s eyes out and screaming “Do you see where I’m comin’ from you jive motherfuckaaaaaaaaaa!!” that pristine mix of White’s delivery, the subtly complementing camerawork, and the heightened reality sell Black Dynamite as one of the funniest movies ever created.

Although a comedy film does appear later on this list, if I’m being honest, Black Dynamite is for me, the funniest movie ever made.

2 thoughts on “68. Black Dynamite

  1. Why we haven’t already gotten three sequels, I don’t know. I picked up Season 1 of the animated series a while back, but I watched the first two episodes and just sort of moved on to other stuff. It’s not bad, but it’s just not the same.

    1. I’ve heard okay things about the show, but I’m not really interested. There’s something about Michael Jai White’s face that I just can’t imagine translates to the animated medium. Especially with the more eastern style they’re going for, the greater detail at the expense of movement. You need the expressions

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