BLACK DYNAMITE. Revenge in the rhythm of funk

Dynamite shoots all the time – when he talks, thinks, has sex… or actually pulls a gun.

Tomasz Bot

15 July 2023


Black Dynamite – with a fierce mustache, a substantial Afro and a black coat pulled over a turtleneck – is the archetypal tough guy. This guy doesn’t just know the street; he is the street. He walks so briskly, as if funk and soul were rocking him from the inside. When he deploys a one-liner, it’s like a sledgehammer hitting a glass. Our hero is also a perfect lover. We meet him while making the lives of three partners more pleasant, while the other two are already sleeping exhausted sleep. Dynamite shoots all the time – when he talks, thinks, has sex… or actually pulls a gun.

Dynamite is a former C.I.A. agent, Vietnam War veteran, martial artist, and long-range sex cannon. He squeezes the juices out of every woman with his talk. Men want to be like him. The Mafia shudders at his wrath. Especially now, when our hero’s brother died, and everything indicates that he was involved in dirty business.

Let’s quickly go through the professional nomenclature, because after that it’s just fun. Exploitation cinema is a trend of low-budget, often shocking films in which sex, violence and the dark side of life are celebrated and become the main attraction. A branch of this trend is blaxploitation – “harsh” images shot by blacks for blacks in the 70s. African American audiences wanted to see on the screen tough and black characters walking through Harlem or other urban spots to the beat of “black” music. Sometimes they were heroes steeped in dirty deals, sometimes defenders of justice in the Clint Eastwood type. This trend has released about 200 titles and still inspires today (see: Jackie Brown by Tarantino with the iconic Pam Grier).

This 2009 comedy quickly and efficiently throws us to the mat, or rather its hero, played with a healthy exaggeration by Michael Jai White, does it. The actor hit the parody convention perfectly, bombarding the viewer – intensely, but not boringly – with harsh testosterone energy. But the other filmmakers also took care of our fun. On a technical level, everything is buzzing and buzzing. This is one big retro that I buy with all my being. The film even screams that it refers to another era, and is definitely charming in its ostentation. A split screen, music video gimmicks to make the action more dynamic, appropriate sets and costumes (for example, gangsters in fur coats and with canes in ringed hands) – all this is here, because it should be. Let’s also note the coarse grain of the cinematography, nervous, outdated camera movements and a really solid soundtrack. The latter takes us to the old-school world of Shaft-type images, and it was released on CD for a reason.

The story contains the right dose of ironically twisted pathos. We will find out how dramatic and hard street life is, we will get a large dose of social problems (for example, heroin-addicted children in an orphanage); in the background, of course, gangsters, shady dives, brothels and a city raging with the cancer of decay. Whites appear rarely and usually in the background – the opposite of the situation that prevailed in the mainstream cinema of the 70s.

Enjoy the ostentatious “deficiencies”: a dangling microphone or highly imperfect scenes of crashes and explosions. Black Dynamite is not a big money movie. But this is a cinema that intelligently refers to blaxploitation, deliciously dispensing with imperfections, creating a convincing and coherent vision. Because even when a cruel Asian, a master of martial arts with huge eyebrows appears on the screen, we will consider him an immanent part of this joyfully wacky story. We will not feel that it is “too much” neither when the investigation leads our hero to the White House, nor when he performs the most absurd scene of reasoning in front of our eyes.

This movie is really fun. The creators were aware that the retro atmosphere alone is not enough. And rightly so – I recently got bored with Father’s Day from Troma, which referred to exploitation, but apart from the harsh climate, it had virtually nothing to offer. When it comes to the latest stylizations for penny genres, I am not moved by the medium-energy Machete or the fetishistic and heavy Grindhouse: Death Proof. The creators of Black Dynamite took care of a quite ingenious scenario that highlights and ridicules all stereotypes of blaxploitation, causing the viewer to burst out laughing. Knowledge of the genre is not required, but before the screening I suggest watching one of its flagship works (e.g. Black Belt Jones).

Black Dynamite is unpretentious and consistent. There will be nudity, “fucki”, and mockery of every race and the macho world itself. I also appreciate the very successful performance of one of the historical figures … The action of the picture is fast-paced, and my final feeling was – less and less felt – the hunger for a sequel. Once is definitely not enough. Now I want more: harder, faster and even blacker. For now, we can be satisfied with the two-season animation from Adult Swim, but I hope that Dynamite will blow up the big screen more than once.