Whether the satire comes out and bitch slaps you or goes along nicely with your playful mindset doesn’t matter to me — Black Dynamite is parody with bite, at once self-effacing yet distinctly aware of the subject it so lovingly laughs at, which is, in this case, the blaxploitation genre. Unlike the spot-on reverse portrayals of MADtv and Saturday Night Live, its eagerness to deliver a chuckle is not based in a low-profile eye roll but genuine love; its makers, like me, have a soft spot for the low-budget, in-your-face filmmaking era. It’s a modern Shaft, Superfly, only a little more self-aware and a hell of a lot funnier. You don’t have to be a blaxploitation expert to get a kick out of all the action-packed hysteria.
Our titular Black Dynamite is played by a magnificent Michael Jai White, who, when not chewing scenery and sexing up foxy ladies, is ridding the ghetto of invasive species of crime. As the film opens, he is in the process of avenging his brothers death and investigating the peculiar inclusion of heroin into the orphanages of the area. Kicking the asses of bad guys and spitting out one-liners like an addiction is all in a day’s work; so unexpected is just how far the heroin case goes, and how Black Dynamite, normally a man who uses women like toys, begins to fall in love with Gloria Gray (Salli Richardson), a black power activist.
The feature is so meticulous when evoking the shoddiness of blaxploitation that it sometimes seems like an extra-long sequence of the era’s most laughable moments, from sloppily written lines (“The worst thing about these pushers getting these children addicted to this new smack is that these children are orphans, and orphans don't have parents!”) to an extended scene during which the boom microphone is clearly visible. Sanders’s direction is fiendishly spot-on, and his screenplay, co-written with star White and Byron Minns, makes comedy seem effortless. But don’t be fooled — consideration blaxploitation was always accidentally funny to begin with, unsuccessful parody could easily be seen as pale imitation. It’s a good thing the creators of Black Dynamite are so perceptive. Then what would we have?
It’s pitch-perfect. There’s the way Black Dynamite loves to refer to himself in third person (the characters around him never using “you,” only his full title), the way the characters have names ranging from Tasty Freeze to Mo Bitches, the way the lyrical content of its soundtrack always reflects the current situation (not a stranger to real blaxploitation), or the way the final fist fight of the film leads all the way to the White House, where Dick and Pat Nixon have a brawl versus Black Dynamite perhaps as equally brutal as the confrontation between Vernita Green and the Bride in Kill Bill. Undemanding, sharp, and ultimately satisfying, Black Dynamite will thrill fans of blaxploitation while still being universal enough to appeal to casual viewers. A delight. B+