Black Dynamite, by Albert W. Vogt III

Full disclosure up front: I do not recommend Black Dynamite (2009).  For starters, unless you are familiar with the 1970s so-called “blacksploitation” films it spoofs, you might be a bit lost.  Related to that, it relies heavily on you understanding the racial stereotypes it underscores to make its point.  If you watch this without a working knowledge of these things, then you might think that it is making fun of African American culture in a derogatory way.  However, when you consider the ground it covers in less than ninety minutes, you might see it differently.  The sub-genre to which it is speaking created their own set of cinematic stereotypes that are at once ridiculous and damaging to the image of an entire people.  These are not the only reasons I do not recommend it, but I will get more into that later.  It is actually a hilarious movie when viewed in the right context, but that context involves a level of understanding sadly lacking today.

The title character (Michael Jai White) in Black Dynamite (he has no other name) bursts onto the screen from the get go, doing everything in an over-the-top fashion.  This is ratcheted up another level when his brother Jimmy (Robert Vaughn) is murdered, and Black Dynamite vows revenge as is the custom of people in such films.  He believes Jimmy had been involved in drugs, but his former partner with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), O’Leary (Kevin Chapman), tells him that Jimmy had been an undercover agent.  Now, Black Dynamite makes it his mission to not only avenge his brother, but to clean up the streets.  The wanton destruction to come is given legal sanction when O’Leary, who also served with Black Dynamite during the Vietnam War, reinstates his former partner’s license to kill.  Also helping his cause, particularly in regards to the goal of cleaning up the streets, is a group of Black Panther lookalikes, led by the politically active Gloria Gray (Salli Richardson).  She shows him an orphanage they run where all the children are addicted to heroin.  Black Dynamite is also assisted by a colorful cast of characters who are basically criminals themselves, but see a higher cause in Black Dynamite’s goals.  From there, they take down the drug ring, which ushers in a new era of peace and prosperity in the neighborhood.  Still, Black Dynamite is just getting started.  During his quest, he discovers a ledger from corrupt Congressman James Monroe (Tucker Smallwood) that seems to suggest more drug shipments.  This leads Black Dynamite to a warehouse full of Anaconda Malt Liquor, and guarded by CIA agents led by O’Leary.  This betrayal stings, but it points to a vaster government conspiracy.  Through a convoluted unscrambling of the letters and words in Anaconda Malt Liquor, they figure out that the government sponsored alcohol is being produced in order to shrink the, ahem, manhood of African American men.  There can only be one person for Black Dynamite with the cruelty to produce such a chemical, and that is the Fiendish Dr. Wu (Roger Yuan).  Traveling to Kung Fu Island, Black Dynamite takes on his nemesis and kills him.  However, during the raid, he discovers that the plot goes even higher.  What could be more powerful than an island based criminal enterprise?  Why, the president of the United States, of course.  That is where Black Dynamite goes next, fighting hand-to-hand with Richard Nixon (James McManus).  In the midst of their combat, as mustache twirling villains are wont to do, Nixon reveals his whole plan to keep African Americans in their supposed place.  He gets the upper hand in the duel, too, when he has the pistol that killed Abraham Lincoln trained on Black Dynamite.  What saves our hero is the ghost of Abraham Lincoln, and Black Dynamite goes on to triumph.

A kung fu tussle between Black Dynamite and the president is not the only ridiculous thing that happens.  The film attempts to poke fun at a racially stereotyped brand of cinema by bringing attention to the absurdity these stereotypes throughout.  For example, Black Dynamite interrupts a meeting of pimps, asking for their help in cleaning up the community.  They all seem eager, but one of them reminds Black Dynamite that he also sells drugs in the community.  The hero’s response is a brief moment of confusion, followed by him ignoring the obvious contradiction and moving on to other subjects.  Now, Jesus sat with all manner of sinners, something His enemies like the Pharisees never seemed to want to let him forget.  He did so because, as He explains elsewhere, He did not come to call the righteous to repentance, but those lacking righteousness.  Black Dynamite is no Jesus, but it bears remembering that everyone, so long as they are willing to turn from their corrupt ways is worth saving and can contribute by serving others.

Black Dynamite is funny at times not because of the stereotypes, but due to it being purposely a bad movie.  The acting is meant to be overly dramatic.  There are intentionally poorly edited scenes.  These are some of my favorite parts, such as when the boom mic is clearly in shot and Black Dynamite notices it, or when he accidentally loses a set of nunchucks, only to have someone off camera toss him another pair.  People are replaced suddenly in the middle of shots, are misaligned in frame, or are out of focus.  If you enjoy moviemaking being lampooned, this is the one for you.  What is not good about it is the nudity, and general sexualization of female characters.  That is a stereotype that it does not seem interested in conquering.  Between that and the language, I would not suggest it to many people.  If you can manage to avoid these parts, then the rest might produce a few chuckles.

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