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Scott Sanders
Michael Jai White, Arsenio Hall, Tommy Davidson, Kevin Chapman, Richard Edson, Darrel Heath, Buddy Lewis
Writing Credits:
Michael Jai White (and story), Byron Minns (and story), Scott Sanders

An all-star cast led by Michael Jai White is featured in this 1970's-style blaxploitation action fiilm 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.

Box Office:
$2.9 million.
Opening Weekend
$131.862 thousand on 70 screens.
Domestic Gross
$228.477 thousand.

Rated R

Widescreen 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 84 min.
Price: $34.95
Release Date: 2/16/2010

• Audio Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Scott Sanders and Actors/Co-Writers Michael Jai White and Byron Minns
• 17 Deleted and Alternate Scenes
• “Lighting the Fuse” Featurette
• “The ‘70s: Back in Action” Featurette
• “The Comic-Con Experience” Featurette
• Trailers


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Black Dynamite [Blu-Ray] (2009)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 25, 2010)

“Blaxploitation” movies from the 1970s teetered on the edge of self-parody on their own, but filmmakers have still attempted parodies of the genre. 2009’s Black Dynamite follows in this tradition of affectionate spoofs.

When his little brother Jimmy (Baron Vaughn) gets shot full of holes, super soul brother/former CIA agent Black Dynamite (Michael Jai White) goes on a rampage to find the culprit. Along the way, he takes on pimps, drug dealers, the Man, and a plot to emasculate black men everywhere.

If Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez couldn’t achieve box office success with their gleeful nods toward cheap 70s cinema, Scott Sanders sure didn’t have much hope of a hit with Dynamite. It would seem that the subject matter severely limited audience potential, though Jay Roach – an unknown director – did just fine with Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, another flick that spoofed a specific genre with a small nice audience. Of course, Austin Powers had an established star to help sell tickets, while White’s not exactly a household name.

While Dynamite failed to make a dent at the box office, that doesn’t mean it flops as a film. It actually provides decent entertainment, though I can see tactics that might have made it better. It’s very tough to make an intentionally bad movie, and when Dynamite plays up the cinematic weaknesses of the average blaxploitation film, it becomes too self-conscious. For instance, an early scene features obvious continuity inconsistencies, and another sequence plays up an intrusive boom. Both of these problems plagued real movies, but here, they come across as obvious gags.

In addition, actors mug and wink to the camera a little too much. This is another tricky spot. Blaxploitation flicks suffered from weak acting, and the performances here occasionally go over the top in their attempts to spoof those tendencies. The acting works best when it offers a hint of stiffness/hamminess without winking at the camera.

For the most part, White does well in that regard. He easily could’ve done this genre for real, so his slightly skewed take on the Big Black Brotha satisfies – when he plays it fairly straight. We also find a nice supporting cast of real professionals, and they add life to the proceedings. Actors like Phil Morris and Cedric Yarbrough know how to get the laughs without being too broad, so they help make the project funnier.

I do appreciate the fact that Dynamite doesn’t go too broad in its pursuit of laughs. As I mentioned at the start, blaxploitation films already bordered on self-parody; they were so absurd that spoofs run the risk of being redundant. Dynamite hews closely to the blaxploitation framework and just slightly nudges it. This isn’t wild craziness ala Airplane! or the like; it’s just a mild skewering of an already ridiculous genre, and the film’s refusal to take the Zucker “30 jokes a minute” path benefits it.

At no point does Black Dynamite threaten to become a classic comedy, and it occasionally seems about to wear out its welcome. However, it throws enough twists and turns at us to keep us interested and reasonably entertained. Subject matter like this might still be best served in short comedy sketch form, but I still think Dynamite offers decent entertainment.

By the way, you can see some short deleted scenes if you stick through the end credits.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus B

Black Dynamite appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Due to some stylistic choices, this became a difficult transfer to rate objectively, but it satisfied.

Because Dynamite wanted to resemble a cheap 1970s flick, that meant some intentional flaws. At least I think they were intentional. Unlike something such as Death Proof, Dynamite didn’t abound with print defects. I saw the occasional speck, mark or blemish. I felt these were put there to age the flick, but it’s possible that wasn’t accurate. Whatever the case, the “defects” never dominated, and they actually suited the movie.

Colors tended toward a rather “Afrocentric palette”. The flick went with a golden brown tone and favored reds and other dark hues. These looked good within the constraints of the visual choices. Blacks were deep and firm, while shadows offered good clarity and delineation.

Sharpness was also positive. A few slightly soft shots appeared, but as with the source flaws, most of these instances seemed to be intentional; the movie wanted to look a bit off at times to live down to its low budget inspirations. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge enhancement remained absent. Overall, I felt pleased with this presentation.

In addition, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Dynamite worked nicely. In truth, I kind of wish it’d gone with a more restricted affair; a movie like this should be mono, and low-fi mono at that. Still, the soundscape worked for the film. Music showed nice stereo presence, and the variety of action sequences added zest to the picture. Gunfire, vehicles and other elements cropped up around the spectrum in a positive manner, and the elements fit together well.

Audio quality was satisfying. Speech seemed natural and concise, without edginess or other concerns. Music seemed vivid and full, and effects worked about the same. The various components displayed nice clarity and accuracy, and the mix packed good bass response when necessary. Nothing here really excelled, but the track seemed more than acceptable.

A decent collection of extras appears here. We open with an audio commentary from director/co-writer Scott Sanders and actors/co-writers Michael Jai White and Byron Minns. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific look at influences and inspirations, cast, characters and performances, sets and locations, period details, and music.

While I thought the commentary might offer a fun look at the genre and what Dynamite did with it, instead it tends to be a pretty ordinary affair. We get some references to the flick’s allusions and learn a reasonable amount about the production, but the track doesn’t dig into the movie as well as I’d like. It’s a fairly average chat.

17 Deleted and Alternate Scenes fill a total of 25 minutes, 15 seconds. Most of these offer additional exposition and focus on the relationship between Congressman James and Rafelli. In that area, a little goes a long way, so none of the scenes would’ve added to the experience. Indeed, I suspect they would’ve slowed down the story, though it’s too bad one with some very nice woman in a pool had to get the boot.

Otherwise, most of the remaining clips tend to extend existing sequences. These provide minor additions without much to make them memorable. We do meet “Mahogany Black”, a deleted spy character; her presence is the most interesting bit here. I think the snippets are enjoyable to see, but I don’t believe any of them should’ve ended up in the final cut – well, except for that pool scene.

Three featurettes ensue. Lighting the Fuse goes for 22 minutes, 48 seconds and provides remarks from White, Sanders, Minns, editor/composer Adrian Younge, costume designer Ruth E. Carter, production designer Denise Pizzini, and actors Tommy Davidson, Buddy Lewis, and Salli Richardson-Whitfield. We learn about the flick’s origins and story/script development, inspirations and influences, cast, characters and performances, costumes, production design and period details, film stock, editing and music, and the movie’s tone.

Though it touches on a number of the same subjects, “Fuse” proves more satisfying than the commentary. It’s definitely a tighter look at the subject matter, and it gives us a higher level of details. It’s a good encapsulation of the various filmmaking issues.

The ‘70s: Back in Action lasts 14 minutes, 13 seconds and features notes from White, Sanders, Younge, Carter, Pizzini, Richardson-Whitfield, Davidson, Minns, and Lewis. “Action” gives us a closer look at the blaxploitation flicks and actors that inspired/influenced Dynamite as well as more about the filmmakers’ attempts to replicate these sources. Again, some of this repeats earlier info, but it digs into the topic in a more complete manner, so it’s satisfying.

Finally, The Comic-Con Experience runs 18 minutes, four seconds. Moderator Elvis Mitchell leads a panel that includes White, Sanders, Minns and Richardson-Whitfield. They discuss the project’s roots, story elements, cast, characters and performances, influences, and a few other production details. Expect a fair amount of redundant info here, but there’s still enough new material to make the panel worth a look.

A few ads open the disc. We get clips for The Boondocks Saints II: All Saints Day, Universal Soldier: Regeneration and H2. These also appear in the Trailers area along with promos for Moon, Kung Fu Hustle, Soul Power, Snatch, Breaking Bad, Zombieland and Michael Jackson’s This Is It. No trailer for Dynamite shows up here.

While it might seem redundant and pointless to parody a genre as ridiculous as blaxploitation, Black Dynamite nonetheless offers reasonable entertainment. It pokes affectionate fun at its predecessors and manages just enough laughs to keep us with it. The Blu-ray provides pretty positive picture and audio along with a fairly satisfying set of supplements.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.5 Stars Number of Votes: 10
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main