×

Black Dynamite

"Black Dynamite" tips its frilly pimp hat to early '70s African-American action pics.

With:
Black Dynamite - Michael Jai White Honey Bee - Kym Whitley Cream Corn - Tommy Davidson O'Leary - Kevin Chapman Bullhorn - Byron Minns Gloria - Salli Richardson-Whitfield Chocolate Giddy Up - Cedric Yarbrough Chicago Wind - Mykelti Williamson Sweet Meat - Brian McKnight Back Hand Jack - Bokeem Woodbine Tasty Freeze - Arsenio Hall Kotex - John Salley Richard M. Nixon - James McManus Patricia Nixon - Nicole Sullivan

Less screwball farce than affectionate, Tarantino-esque grindhouse homage, Scott Sanders’ raucous “Black Dynamite” tips its frilly pimp hat to early ’70s African-American action pics. A vastly entertaining film, with a playfully suave and acrobatic perf by co-writer Michael Jai White in the title role, this film will delight both discriminating fans of the blaxploitation tradition and ordinary lovers of goofy, in-ya-face thrills. The rowdy midnight screening at Sundance drew a nearly $2 million sale to Sony by dawn; with proper positioning, the pic, spanning the ghetto to Tricky Dick’s White House, could grow from word-of-mouth cult item to mainstream bank-breaker.

Helmer and co-writer Sanders, whose “Thick as Thieves” graced Sundance a decade ago, has assembled a topnotch crew with whom to flaunt the low-budget eye candy of “Dolemite,” “Superfly” and, particularly, “The Mack”: flared threads, tall ‘fros, and, er, ‘hos. The director’s kung-fu kicks and .44 Magnum blasts are as stupendously timed as his slang-slinging one-liners — which is to say that, unlike some blaxploitation remakes, “Dynamite” never forgets to deliver the goods.

Plot, such as it is, has muscular, mustachioed ladykiller Black Dynamite avenging his brother Jimmy’s murder at the hands of drug-dealing cats in cahoots with the Man — aka O’Leary (Kevin Chapman).

Teamed with the likes of flamboyant queen Cream Corn (Tommy Davidson) and tough-as-nails Bullhorn (co-writer Byron Minns), suave baadasssss Dynamite follows the Man’s menace from a doped-up orphanage to a warehouse stocked with absurdly poisonous malt liquor, eventually getting it on with nectar-sweet activist Gloria (Salli Richardson-Whitfield).

Hilarious climax finds Dynamite going mano-a-mano with a nunchuks-swinging Richard Nixon.Sanders and his key collaborators — veteran costume designer Ruth E. Carter, production designer Denise Pizzini, d.p. Shawn Maurer and editor Adrian Younge (who also wrote the wah-wah-fueled music) — make enjoyably funky use of split screens, shaky zooms, and drooping boom mics. (Sanders stops short of digitally manufacturing scratches on the print a la “Grindhouse,” which is maybe just as well.)

Pic’s many fight scenes, owing to “Enter the Dragon” more than anything in the blaxploitation oeuvre, are ingeniously choreographed by the Yuan brothers, Ron and Roger.

Distinctly not circa ’73 are soundwoman Sara Glaser’s Dolby thwacks and cap-peelings — but, like the film, they’re loud and fun.

Popular on Variety

Black Dynamite

Production: A Sony Worldwide release of an Ars Nova production, in association with Harbor Entertainment. Produced by Jon Steingart, Jenny Wiener Steingart. Executive producers, Deanna Berkeley, James Berkeley. Co-producers, Jillian Apfelbaum, Alison Engel, Steven Funk, Seth Harrison, Matt Richards, Jenna Segal, Paul Segal. Directed by Scott Sanders. Screenplay, Sanders, Michael Jai White, Byron Minns, from a story by White, Minns.

Crew: Camera (color, Super 16-to-35mm), Shawn Maurer; editor, Adrian Younge; music, Younge; music supervisor, David Hollander; production designer, Denise Pizzini; set decorator, Antonia Nunez; costume designer, Ruth E. Carter; sound (Dolby Digital), Sara Glaser; supervising sound editor, Sean Gray; visual effects supervisor, Brian Adler; animation, Six Point Harness; fight coordinators, Ron Yuan, Roger Yuan; stunt coordinator, Ron Yuan; associate producer, Intesar Haider; assistant director, Chad Rosen; casting, Rick Montgomery. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Park City at Midnight), Jan. 18, 2009. Running time: 90 MIN.

With: Black Dynamite - Michael Jai White Honey Bee - Kym Whitley Cream Corn - Tommy Davidson O'Leary - Kevin Chapman Bullhorn - Byron Minns Gloria - Salli Richardson-Whitfield Chocolate Giddy Up - Cedric Yarbrough Chicago Wind - Mykelti Williamson Sweet Meat - Brian McKnight Back Hand Jack - Bokeem Woodbine Tasty Freeze - Arsenio Hall Kotex - John Salley Richard M. Nixon - James McManus Patricia Nixon - Nicole Sullivan

More Film

  • Beyonce Knowles'The Lion King' film premiere,

    ABC Announces Behind-the-Scenes Special for Beyoncé's 'Lion King' LP

    ABC has announced a new behind-the-scenes look into the making of Beyoncé’s “The Lion King: The Gift” LP, which is set to air September 16 on ABC at 10 p.m. EST. Titled “Beyoncé Presents: Making the Gift,” the new hour-long special will allow viewers to “experience the process” behind the “Lion King” companion album, according [...]

  • Jason Lei Howden, Samara Weaving and

    Daniel Radcliffe On Acting With Weapons Nailed To Your Hands

    How did “Guns Akimbo” director and writer Jason Lei Howden convince Daniel Radcliffe to play a character with guns nailed to his hands? Easy, he sent him the script. Radcliffe joined Howden and “Ready or Not’s” breakout star Samara Weaving in the Variety’s Toronto Film Festival studio, presented by AT&T to talk the limits of [...]

  • Box Office: It Chapter Two Maintains

    Box Office: 'It: Chapter Two' Continues International Reign With $47 Million

    Pennywise’s reign of terror hasn’t wavered: Warner Bros.’ “It Chapter Two” maintained first place on box office charts, led by another strong showing overseas. The sequel, based on Stephen King’s horror novel, generated another $47 million at the international box office for a foreign tally of $169 million. After two weeks of release, “It Chapter [...]

  • First still from the set of

    Taika Waititi’s 'Jojo Rabbit' Wins Top Prize at Toronto Film Festival Awards

    Taika Waititi’s “Jojo Rabbit” has won the coveted People’s Choice Award at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. The honor positions the film for a potential Oscar run and bolsters its awards chances. That’s good news for Fox Searchlight, which must have been disappointed by the lackluster critical reception for the movie, a dark comedy [...]

  • Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez star

    Box Office: 'Hustlers' Racks Up Solid $33 Million Debut, 'Goldfinch' Bombs

    “Hustlers” rolled in the Benjamins this weekend, collecting $33.2 million when it debuted in 3,250 North American theaters. Boosted by rave reviews and stellar word of mouth, “Hustlers” beat expectations and now ranks as the best start for an STX film, along with the biggest live-action opening weekend for stars Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu. [...]

  • German Cinema Is Diverse, But Is

    German Cinema Is Varied, But Is It Too Risk Averse?

    One of the strengths of German cinema is its diversity, says Simone Baumann, managing director of the national film promotion agency German Films. As well as the three films at Toronto directed by female German helmers, there was also German filmmaker Thomas Heise’s documentary film essay “Heimat Is a Space in Time.” Then there were [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content