Blaxploitation parodies can be viewed with trepidation. The genre itself verges on parody, so to point out that it’s ridiculous kind of goes without saying. And no one wants to see a bunch of in-jokes that only appeal to those very familiar with the genre. That said, the three major blaxploitation parodies of the past ten years, Pootie Tang, Undercover Brother and now Black Dynamite, all end up being quite good, and each in their own way.
This film stars Michael Jai White, who has been floating around in the background of movies for some time, most recently in The Dark Knight. This movie also has a little more of a by-blacks-for-blacks feel, and though a deeper knowledge of some of the more out-there films on the genre will definitely enhance one’s experience, it will still be funny to anyone who has picked up the general vibe just from its lasting place in pop culture. The movie opens with a fuzzy, 70s-looking commercial for Anaconda Malt Liquor, then segues into a scene of a guy getting killed by an unseen gangster-type. We then meet Black Dynamite, in the process of having sex with at least six women. He has a big muscular body, often on display [thanks!], nice thick mustache, and fairly sizeable fro, making him into kind of a Jim Brown type. He soon learns that the guy killed at the beginning was his brother Jimmy, who got caught up in “the new smack that’s on the streets.” This causes Black Dynamite [BD] to ask “Where is Jimmy and what has he hey-ad,” a direct reference to Dolemite film Disco Godfather. We then have BD’s white friend from his CIA days try to bring him back on the force, leading BD to recall his troubling days in Vietnam, and the people there, who he repeatedly, politically-incorrectly and hilariously repeatedly refers to as “Chinese.”
In looking for who’s responsible for his brother’s death he calls on Creamed Corn, clearly based on Antonio Fargas roles in movies like Foxy Brown and Cleopatra Jones. Also helping BD is Bullhorn, who declaims loud, ridiculous lines in the style of Dolemite. He goes to a neighborhood anti-smack rally where he meets a beautiful woman, Gloria, clearly based on Carol Speed’s scene in Disco Godfather. I’m surprised they didn’t include her misstatement from that movie, that she wants to “whack the attack on smack.” BD soon has his license to kill reinstated, and we see a ludicrously fake CIA ID clearly referring to the same thing from Cleopatra Jones. These things are all funny if you get the references, but are also funny on their own—the same as they were in the original movies.
Turns out there’s an Italian mobster behind the smack on the streets—surprise. Gloria, who is initially resistant to BD’s charms, takes him to the orphanage where she works, where BD sees 10-12 year-old kids in the throes of addiction, which causes him to freak, since he was an orphan himself. You’ll notice that the sign for the orphanage reads only “Orphanage.” BD goes to all the local pimps and tells them that they have to stop dealing drugs, and the movie addresses something that goes unsaid in real blaxploitation films: that he’s asking them to just give up their major source of income, just like that. After a montage in which BD takes down all the smack dealers, he and Gloria wander through a hilariously now-perfect neighborhood, where kids are doing nothing but contentedly skipping rope, delivering newspapers and playing hopscotch.
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BD and his friends perform a bust where all the smack is supposed to be, but find only cases of Anaconda Malt Liquor, which one of them drinks prodigiously. They are bewildered where the smack could be. Then, in a hilarious scene ripped straight from the real films, BD’s group of inner-city dudes reveal a surprisingly deep knowledge of Greek and Roman history, figuring a long chain of association that starts with M&Ms through Mars, God of war, to Little Richard, aka little dick—and discover that the man’s evil plan is to put something in the malt liquor that causes black men’s penises to shrink. Hehehehehe. They visit the guy who consumed it all, and we do indeed see the unfortunate result of the man’s nefarious plan. What must they do next? Why, pursue the syndicate to Kung-Fu Island, of course.
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The movie ends in a surprising place, with an unusual villain, and the spirit of Abraham Lincoln briefly invoked in the fight. Then it turns out Gloria is inexplicably on scene, and the film ends with them all in a pose that evokes the poster for Black Shampoo [see below]. Oh, and I forgot one other funny little thing. When it’s time for Gloria and BD to hop in the sack, she voices reservations about being used, and he tells her “Look baby, you can go or you can COME, ya dig?”
I found it entirely delightful, and much more consistently funny than I anticipated. White stays consistently in his character and never betrays a wink to the audience. The movie is also extremely loose in structure—whole elements from the plot of the first half seem to be entirely forgotten by the second—but that works in its favor, as it keeps the tone very fun and explicitly tells you not to take any of this too seriously.
As a parody, it’s not a story you really get involved with, but remain at an ironic distance, laughing both at it and the movies it is parodying, and this may make it lower priority and not as satisfying as a straightforward film where you’re supposed to get involved in the story, but whatever, we have enough of those. That said, it’ll hold up fine on video, although having an audience present to laugh along with it is a boost. If it looks funny to you, check it out. If you’re also familiar with many of the films, mainly the Dolemite series and Cleopatra Jones, you definitely owe it to yourself to check it out. You won’t be sorry.
Yes, especially if you’re familiar with blaxploitation films.