A Fetishist’s Devotion Marks Black Dynamite


He’s a sex machine, righteous brother, and one bad mother: Who cares if the title character in Scott Sanders’s blaxploitation spoof looks more like a butched-up Isaac the bartender from The Love Boat than Richard Roundtree? Parodic homages to films that were essentially parodies the first go-round are either the joke that keeps on giving or dead-end mimesis (honky that I am, I couldn’t help but think of Susan Sontag’s distinction between naïve versus deliberate camp). Black Dynamite (Michael Jai White, recently of Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married?) sets out to avenge his brother’s death, vanquishing all jive turkeys and uncovering a diabolical plot by Whitey involving poisoned malt liquor that leads all the way to Tricky Dick. The attention to superficial detail, from lapel width to jittery zooms to wah-wah-heavy score, reveals a fetishist’s devotion: “I wanted it to look like we had a pristine print of an old movie,” explains Sanders, who co-wrote the script with White and Byron Minns, performing as fast-rhyming club owner Bullhorn. But no matter how many trips to Kung Fu Island our hero makes, nothing in Black Dynamite captures the exhilarating absurdity of Pam Grier hiding razors in her Afro in Coffy—or the loony genre experimentation in Pootie Tang.