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Blu-ray Review: Black Dynamite

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"Hey, Little Mama. It may be bigger than you, and it may be bigger than me, but it ain't bigger than you and me, can you dig it?" — Black Dynamite


Black Dynamite (Michael Jai White) is one bad dude. An ex-CIA agent who now spends his time loving on the ladies and practicing his kung fu, his world is shaken when his little brother Jimmy is gunned down by some shady pimps. And what's worse, those pimps are working with the government, and they're all involved in selling drugs to kids. Kids at the orphanage! Let's just say that they all picked the wrong day to cross Black Dynamite. But really, is there ever a good day for that? Dynamite has to pull some favors with his friends in the underground (solid!), but pretty soon he's busting asses from uptown to downtown, from the crack house to the White House.

In short, Black Dynamite is both a spot-on parody of and tribute to the blaxploitation genre of movies from the '70s. It's mostly delivered straight and serious, but with enough sly winks and subtle jabs at the goofs and stock conventions of those movies (and let's be honest, of most action movies still) that it becomes a simply hilarious bit of filmmaking. What really makes the film is the impeccable attention to detail. The costumes are amazingly spot-on; and the original songs in the film blend in so well with the period music that you can't tell the two apart until you notice how the lyrics are giving some additional on-screen exposition to the plot. Much greater than the tired slapstick genre of film parodies that litter theatres, Black Dynamite shows how well the idea can be done with a little homework and a lot of passion for the project.


I actually wonder if Blu-ray is overkill for this kind of film. A clean 1080p transfer is hard to complain about, but seeing that Black Dynamite aspires to emulate films that were both quickly and cheaply made, its presentation here is sometimes too good. The underexposed and grainy shots, the abundance of yellow color balancing, the excess of grain, the faded tonal palette… all there. But they actually had to go through some effort to get there. Fortunately, it looks so authentic, you half expect to walk outside into the '70s when you're done. But in spots you wish they had dragged the print behind a bus just a little more. When you cut from scenes with laughably awesome stock footage, complete with excessive dirt artifacts and debris, you kind of miss it when its gone. So to sum up, this may be the one instance where I actively wanted the print to look worse, but its still fine that it doesn't. Enjoy that hi-def, but you would probably enjoy it just as much in standard (or VHS).

The audio track, however, is totally righteous, ya dig? The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track takes full advantage of the space for all manner of karate chops, car explosions, gun shots, and funky soul music. In fact, the music soundtrack is one of the best parts about the film. But everything works together, especially during the frequent action scenes, where the sound effects guys go appropriately nuts with over-the-top effects.

Bonus Material

Although the bonus materials aren't overly extensive, they are well chosen. The commentary track with director/co-writer Scott Sanders, star/co-writer Michael Jai White, and co-star/co-writer Byron Minns is fun, informative, and their affection for the genre is contagious. This is the kind of film you'll want to watch multiple times, and the commentary will show you lots of little things to look for. The collection of deleted and alternate scenes (SD, 25:15) are a mix of good and forgettable, although with a few of them you wonder how they missed being in the film.

"The Comic-Con Experience" (HD, 18:04), is a more condensed and loose version of the commentary track information, and filmed as a panel discussion at Comic-Con. It's here that you really appreciate their dedication to both mocking and respecting this genre; and they are genuine geeks on the topic, it's very fun to hear them. "The '70s: Back In Action" (HD, 14:13) is a more standard interview feature exploring blaxploitation films and their place in cinematic history. "Lighting The Fuse" (HD, 22:48) is a more standard making-of featurette, with interviews of the cast and crew and the development of the film. The only odd misstep for the bonus material is that somehow Sony saw fit to include trailers for every film known to man (or perhaps just ten), but not one for Black Dynamite.


There is only one conclusion to be had here. You need to round up your bitches and see Black Dynamite. Yeah, I'm talking to you, you jive turkeys!

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About David R Perry