Black Dynamite

Time Out New York Project: Issue #733, October 15-21, 2009


Dir. Scott Sanders. 2009. R. 90mins. Michael Jai White, Arsenio Hall, Tommy Davidson.

Less deadpan spoof than loving act of possession, Black Dynamite near-fully channels the look and feel of its blaxploitation ancestors, warts and all. There are as many moments of belabored boredom as scenes of elating action (props to creators Scott Sanders and Michael Jai White—they stay true to their source). Yet the film’s overall rude inventiveness more than makes up for its rough patches. 

Black Dynamite (White) is both a vividly distinct character and an amalgam of the genre’s stereotypes. This early-’70s, Afro-bedecked Lothario is introduced pleasuring a group of women who pop up swooningly from beneath the sheets like clowns out of a minicar. There’s a genuine twinkle, as opposed to a witheringly knowing glint, in the character’s eye when he gushes at his “bitches.” Indeed, this parodic endeavor doesn;t sink beneath the weight of its predecessors (Shaft, Dolemite, Truck Turner), but rather stands effortlessly alongside them. Even as the narrative gets increasingly, often hilariously stupid—incorporating the Los Angeles drug trade, an island of evil kung fu masters and a malt liquor that has all virile black men cowering in their pimp duds—White’s performance acts as an anchor.

Foxy Brown famously climaxed with a cock in a pickle jar, and Black Dynamite similarly concludes with a dick: “Tricky Dick” Nixon, that is, whom our hero engages in a nunchucks-wielding smackdown. And still he makes time for the ladies, apologizing to a smitten Pat Nixon for “pimp-slapping” her into a bookcase. As the theme song declares, this cat is dy-no-mite!—Keith Uhlich