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Black Dynamite: a gun-toting, nunchuck-wielding, ladies man and soul brother. When "The Man" murders his brother, pumps heroin into local orphanages, and floods the ghetto with adulterated malt liquor, Black Dynamite is the one hero willing to fight all the way from the blood-soaked city streets to the hallowed halls of the Honky House.
For more about Black Dynamite and the Black Dynamite Blu-ray release, see Black Dynamite Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on January 21, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Michael Jai White, Arsenio Hall, Tommy Davidson, Kevin Chapman (I), Byron Minns, Salli Richardson-Whitfield
Director: Scott Sanders
» See full cast & crew
Black Dynamite Blu-ray Review
B.D. comes to BD.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, January 21, 2010
Who the hell is interrupting my Kung Fu?
Black Dynamite. The name says it all. He's black, and he's dynamite. A bad man who's explosive with the ladies, a master of deadly weapons, a smooth operator, and sportin' a freshly-picked 'fro, Black Dynamite got a harsh background but a tender soul that both have allowed him to make it in the world, and he don't take no you-know-what from no fool, neither, whether on the streets, the jungles of "China," or in the bedroom. Yeah, this brotha got it all goin' on. He got boo koo respect, he bring fear into the eyes of all who cross him, soul brotha' got him some brain power, and he's out to clean up the mean streets once and for all, a mission that will take him around the world and into the den of "The Man" himself, and he's ready to kick some and take names if it means no brotha from a different motha ain't never gonna be hooked on no smack again, and the stock of malt liquor's finally safe to drink. Black Dynamite: hero of the oppressed, villain of the oppressor, and star of his very own movie that's a laugh riot of a "Blaxploitation" Parody/Homage and one of the funniest films of 2009. What? This $#!( ain't real?
Black Dynamite (Michael Jai White, Universal Soldier: The Return) is the baddest and blackest man -- "blacker than the ace of spades" -- in town. Cross this fool -- kill his brother, for instance -- and watch out. When B.D. learns that his brother's been killed in a drug deal, he loses focus as he remembers his promise that he made to his mama as she lie on her deathbed that ain't no harm would never come to the little man. B.D. then vows revenge -- even against the wishes of his former partner at the C.I.A. -- and sets out on a quest for vengeance, even with his license to kill revoked. Along the way, he learns that the city's orphans have become addicted to smack, and being an orphan himself, B.D. adds drug disposal to his list of errands for the day. B.D. also discovers that the hole goes much deeper; the city's latest craze -- Anaconda malt liquor -- is causing unfortunate side effects in its drinkers, and Black Dynamite unravels a vast conspiracy conceived by "The Man" that goes all the way to the top echelons of white power and oppression.
What makes Black Dynamite as good as a 40-ounce malt liquor is that it isn't hindered by a plot that's meant to be taken at all seriously, evidenced by its rapid downward spiral in the final act as the story goes from plausible to ridiculous faster than a B.D. karate chop to the neck. The film got a thang goin' on where it's so ridiculously over-the-top that there's no mistaking it for anything other than what it is, a Parody of and Homage to the short-lived but entertaining and oh-so-endearing "Blaxploitation" pictures of the 1970s. It's so good, in fact, that it practically passes for one, and despite a 2009 release date, hardly anything about the film other than its actors date it, and even the cast absolutely melts into each role. Everything's here that needs to be here, and there's nothing that's superfluous or otherwise a hindrance to the picture. Movies like Black Dynamite seem a rarity these days; many "filmmakers" seem content to parody movies by tossing some lookalike on screen and calling it a day, but Black Dynamite is a stickler for fine details, and the meticulousness of it all -- the look of the actors, the wardrobe, the sound effects, the music, and the sets -- have been designed and implemented in such a way so as to create a modern-day film that's a seamless throwback to the genre, and it works as well as it does because it takes itself seriously where it counts -- in its production values -- which opens the door for the story to build on itself and become more and more ridiculous as the film moves on, capturing at first a not-so-subtle but amazingly infectious charm and going all the way towards the ultimate showdown with "The Man" in a film that's excessively but wonderfully gratuitous and downright hilarious in every way a modern take on Blaxploitation should be.
Indeed, Black Dynamite's balancing act keeps its juices flowing and the humor tight, even when the story veers away from any sense of normalcy and -- literally -- dives into unexpected territory. That said, the antics in the film and jumbled plot are all grounded in Blaxploitation style. There's no out-of-context humor or ludicrous physical gags that don't have some footing in both the story and the genre, and in that regard the film distances itself from more slapstick fare like The Naked Gun. It's somewhat hard to label the film as merely another "Parody" when it plays itself so straight within genre confines, but therein lies its humor. Black Dynamite works because it doesn't try too hard to cram in jokes that don't fit; the movie itself is the joke, the entire thing a sendup of a genre by mere association and in the bigger picture, the creation of the perfect genre film. Writer/Star Michael Jai White plays the title role with a seriousness that's countered by the film's jumbled style that shifts tone throughout, but the character's stalwart demeanor remains unchanged. Indeed, the film's visual style, soundtrack, and side characters truly define the picture, and Black Dynamite is more along for the ride, going with the ebb and flow and doing his thing regardless of who he must confront or where he is or needs to be. Finally, Black Dynamite wouldn't be what it is without an onslaught of gratuitous nudity and violence, thematic exploitation of stereotypes, exaggerated characters, and plenty of racial slurs. In any other film such a combination might otherwise prove lethal, but in Black Dynamite, the excessive amount of politically and socially incorrect scenes and dialogue only add to the film's throwback feel and raw appeal.
Black Dynamite Blu-ray, Video Quality
Black Dynamite takes his fight to The Man in high definition, Sony's 1080p, 1.85:1-framed transfer a glorious rendition of the film that's faithful to its gritty source. Black Dynamite looks like a product of its era, with contrast and color reproduction that are all over the map, sometimes lending to the picture a yellow tint, and at other times a decidedly green tint, with flesh tones often following suit, ranging from pasty and light to decidedly red and everything in between. Nevertheless, color reproduction is exceptional considering the source, with many shades offering a vibrant, eye-popping appearance. The film is most readily identifiable through its heavy grain field, a result of the 16mm film stock utilized to lend to the picture its period appearance. Additionally, the transfer does suffer through a few warts in the form of white speckles and some intermittent debris on the newly-minted footage, though it only adds to the feel of the picture, intentional or not. In addition to newly-shot material, Black Dynamite incorporates several pieces of stock footage and shots from older films that offer a slightly more rough texturing but nevertheless fit almost seamlessly in with the bulk of the picture. Fine detail is solid across the board considering the wavering contrast and heavy grain field; viewers will note paint streaks on walls, fine stitches in the period clothing, and the rougher textures of various stone and brick surfaces as seen in certain scenes throughout. The transfer does exhibit some overwhelming blacks that dominate the screen and devour detail, though again this seems more in-line with the throwback look and feel of the movie and the film stock used rather than any technical fault of Sony's fantastic and accurate 1080p transfer.
Black Dynamite Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Black Dynamite revs up on Blu-ray with a powerhouse DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. The film's extensive use of 70s-style beats are splendidly reproduced with each note, the music and the pulsating low end in particular penetrating the soundstage with a richness and abundance of clarity that's probably about the best this style of music has ever sounded for home consumption. Indeed, the track enjoys a natural flow that allows it to spread out nicely about the soundstage; atmospherics are more focused across the front but nevertheless exceptionally clear and perfectly balanced, with hints of back channel support for a pleasant but not particularly aggressive or head-spinning listen. Extensive, loud surround use is limited to several scenes in support of some of the more ambitious action pieces and gunplay. Speaking of, gunfire is crisp and nicely realized, powerful but not overwhelming, each shot delivering a devastating blow that's nicely balanced with the remainder of the track's attributes. The film's low end -- whether the aforementioned music, gunshots, or some other source -- is consistently strong and unwavering in its delivery of all that's asked of it. Additionally, dialogue reproduction is consistently smooth and trouble-free. Though not the most ambitious or exciting track, Black Dynamite's lossless DTS offering makes for a wonderful companion to the film's visual and thematic tone.
Black Dynamite Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Black Dynamite rolls onto Blu-ray with a few assorted extras. First up is a commentary track with Director/Co-Writer Scott Sanders and Actors/Co-Writers Michael Jai White and Byron Minns. The track is delivered firmly and positively, the participants sharing an array of information on the sorts of actors that were cast in classic Blaxploitation pictures, the use of stock footage in the film, the film's many nods and homage to genre pictures past, shooting locations, the performances of the cast, and much more. The track is free-flowing and fun; fans of the film are encouraged to give it a listen. Lighting the Fuse (1080p, 22:48) features cast and crew discussing the film's origins, White's inspirations for the picture, a makeshift promotional trailer, the development of the characters, establishing a look and tone for the picture, costume design, shooting with 16mm film, editing the film for flow, the music, and more. The '70s: Back in Action (1080p, 14:13) features the cast and crew reminiscing about the 1970s and discussing what decade influences found their way into the film from the era of Blaxploitation cinema. The Comic-Con Experience (1080i, 18:04) takes viewers to the film's Comic-Con press conference. Featured speakers include Director/Co-Writer Scott Sanders, Actors/Co-Writers Michael Jai White and Byron Minns, and Actress Salli Richardson-Whitfield. Also included is a collection of 17 deleted and alternate scenes (480p, 25:15); BD-Live functionality; Sony's MovieIQ connectivity; and 1080p trailers for The Boondock Saints II: All Saint's Day, Universal Soldier: Regeneration, Halloween II, Kung Fu Hustle, Moon, Snatch, Soul Power, "Breaking Bad," Michael Jackson's This is It, and Zombieland.
Black Dynamite Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Black Dynamite is an awful movie taken at face value, but as a Parody of and Homage to Blaxploitation cinema, it's a work of art. Its story line is fun and gradually degrades into absolute mayhem; its characters are stereotypes in every way imaginable; its soundtrack, set design, and costuming represent seamless recreations of 70s style; and its technical qualities never show even a hint that the movie isn't a product of its era. As such, Black Dynamite is a quintessential Parody/Homage picture. Not at all a Parody in the Naked Gun or Spaceballs style where external influences and out-of-place gimmicks lend part of the humor to those movies, Black Dynamite instead earns its stripes as an out-and-out faithful replica of a long-gone era and as such offers something of a unique and novel twist on both the Parody and Blaxploitation genres, not to mention that it's a breath of fresh air in a Hollywood that's fairly stale and devoid of all that many new ideas. Sony's Blu-ray release might be lacking a more comprehensive supplemental package, but the disc does offer beautifully faithful video and a strong lossless soundtrack. Black Dynamite is a film aimed at mature audiences, the picture dealing in adult situations, language, and capturing the spirit of decades-old pictures that were and are themselves not meant for children. Still, Black Dynamite comes highly recommended to age-appropriate viewers.
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• Black Dynamite, Universal Soldier Regeneration BD - November 23, 2009
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