Written by Michael Jai White and assisted by a cast of professional writers, the story’s creator was as active in as many elements of the projects completion as humanly possible. While White might still be a relatively unknown name and face, he began working in feature films during the late ‘80s, always taking physical roles. And yes, this write up would not be complete if there wasn’t mention of his portrayal of Spawn in the 1997 eponymous film making White the first African American to be a big screen comic book hero. That feat notwithstanding, Black Dynamite will undoubtedly be this man’s legacy.
There was a buzz surrounding the feature from the earliest stages of its production up and through the appearance that the film made at Sundance. And while the blaxploitation genre, and apparently the satire of such films, comes along with a built in audience, Black Dynamite seems to have only impacted the clutch of film goers that were already fans of genre schlock. Regardless of who wound up seeing the film, it will remain a pillar in the latter day exploit-drama genre that runs rampant in tiny, poorly light theaters across the country.
Taking liberally from a variety of ‘70s black-centric crime films, White, as the title character, winds up taking on a crime syndicate dedicated to making a dollar. And while Black Dynamite doesn’t have any problem with prostitution - he maintains his own stable to run the track - he does find heroin to be an issue in the neighborhood.
With such a simple basis for a film, it’d be rather easy for the plot to become tedious – it does at some points towards the end of the feature as all involved prepare for a final assault. But what makes films like Black Dynamite worth a viewing are the action sequences and tossed off humor. Considering the latter is taken care of by dint of the films all knowing appropriations from not just film, but stereotyped black culture (BD runs into two teenagers who simultaneously claim that he’s their estranged father) only the martial arts fight scenes remain to be dealt with.
Luckily, though White, in real life, possesses black belts in Shotokan, Tae Kwon Do, Kobudo, Goju Ryu, Tang Soo Do, Wushu and Kyokushin. So, each of the scenes that find Black Dynamite in physical danger come off as something worth watching. There might be some subpar performances by tangential actors in this category, but considering the cast list, which includes Arsenio Hall, Tommy Davidson and Bokeem Woodbine amongst others, all should be forgiven.
Black Dynamite, in every aspect of its production, comes as a charmer. The warmed tones of the footage, the ridiculous dialogue and the wink-wink-nudge-nudge jokes make the hour and a half move pretty quickly. It gets to the point that viewers might want to investigate what this feature knocks off, but since Black Dynamite is probably more readily available, it’d seem like watching a series of retreads. It’s that good.