Movies From the Black Lagoon: Black Dynamite
Movies From the Black Lagoon
Black Dynamite - 2009, Rated R
By Tom Doty
In 1972 one righteous dude is all that stands between L.A.'s African-American community and an insidious plot in this freewheeling tribute to urban action epics of the me decade.
Our story hinges on a deathbed promise our titular hero made to his mother. He averred that he would look out for his brother and keep him off drugs. Brother gets gunned down in the opening minutes and Dynamite is not at home to letting the death go un-avenged.
He proceeds to track down the guys that his brother knew. The most flamboyant turns out to be a cat named Creamed Corn. He leads Dynamite on a roof top chase but is eventually cornered and lets it be known that B.D.'s brother was dealing smack. Dynamite goes on a rampage and soon brings the local drug operations to a freeze. Soon it's safe enough for kids to walk the streets but we soon learn that Dynamite's work is far from over.
A coded message soon reveals that a master plan to destroy the black community is in motion and only Dynamite can stop it. He enlists the aid of some colorfully named friends like Corn and Bull Horn(who speaks in rhyme)and the gang is soon duking it out with the mob and assorted goons until the trail takes them to 'Kung-Fu Island" for a showdown with an Asian mastermind called Dr. Wu. This turns out to be a false ending though because the real villain is actually the most powerful man in the country.
Plenty of people have tried doing homage to the urban action genre of the 70's. Some were comedies(I'm Gonna Get you Sucka) while others were action oriented(Original Gangsters)but none were very successful. This film didn't make a lot of bucks at the box office either but it sure should have because it gets every note absolutely right. the humor mainly comes from the situations and it ranges from silly to spot on social satire. The whole enterprise works because they play it straight and have actually seen the films they are saluting, and loved them to boot.
Michael Jai White(Spawn) stars as Dynamite . He rocks a porn star mustache, a moderate Afro and a selection of seventies duds that would make "Shaft" look like a wannabe tough guy. He anchors the film and plays it pretty straight all the way through. His Dynamite is too cool to get very emotional(though he does anger well). The other actors are on board too. Tommy Davidson is funnier here than he's been in anything else. He makes "Creamed Corn" an amalgam of that 70's staple of a jive-talking pimp who helped the hero(a la Huggy Bear or any character played by Antonio Fargas). Byron Mims is also tip top as a character that appears to have been carved from the persona of the late Rudy Ray Moore (Dolemite).
Technically the film is also top notch. The cinematographer and designer get every frame right while the costumers and make-up people do a fine job of making this look like a 70's film. They also earn points for not trying to make the film look dated by adding scratches. All this and you get great musical cues(a chorus sings 'Dynomite" every time our hero appears in a new outfit)as well as a smart script that doesn't leave any cliches un-punctured.
Best Lines: There are a ton so we'll leave you with three of my favorites:
"First Lady. I'm sorry I pimp slapped you into that China cabinet."
Donuts don't wear alligator shoes."
"Your knowledge of scientific transmogrification is only matched by your zest for Kung-Fu treachery."
Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail and to read to children every Wednesday at 10:30am at Borders in Hagerstown. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to: firstname.lastname@example.org.