From Under A Rock: Black Dynamite
Movies like this week’s pick are under-the-radar films that build cult followings through the years. I don’t know anyone who dislikes this movie, and depending on how much credit you give it, you’ll love it for different reasons.
You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show determined at the discretion of Aaron Hubbard and Michael Ornelas in alternation.
Last week Aaron chose The Searchers. This week Michael takes Aaron out from under the proverbial rock to show him Black Dynamite.
Released: October 16th, 2009
Directed by: Scott Sanders
Written by: Michael Jai White & Byron Minns
Michael Jai White as Black Dynamite
Tommy Davidson as Cream Corn
Salli Richardson as Gloria Gray
Michael Ornelas: This is one of the great comedy classics of the modern age, and so few people have heard of it. It spawned an Adult Swim series that I couldn’t really get into, but this film holds up on its own as a surprisingly perfectly-crafted satire/homage to the blaxploitation era of films.
Aaron Hubbard: I don’t know if I’d go so far as to call this a classic, but I really enjoyed it. It certainly achieved its goals though, and you can’t fault a movie for that.
Building the Legend of Black Dynamite
Michael: By the time the film is even just 5 minutes in, there’s something important you know about Black Dynamite: he’s a badass. The man has a reputation, almost a respected fear about him on the streets. He’s one guy you don’t cross. Then as the movie progresses, he proceeds to do countless acts that are basically the type of hyperbole that you’d expect from hearing a story embellished second-hand: he beat down a whole bar full of thugs after locking himself in with them!!! He slept with five women all at the same time!! He beat Richard Nixon in a nunchuck battle!! None of those sound like real things, but when you’re building a legend who has that kind of hype, it’s important to actually show it on-screen instead of resting on the reputation you’ve created. This movie does that in spades and allows for one hell of a popcorn flick.
Aaron: The film actually reminded me quite a bit of John Wick in that way, albeit more tongue in cheek. It’s a tried and true premise to have a charismatic actor play a character who says cool stuff before he does cool stuff. I think you’ve covered most of the major highlights, although I also enjoyed his fight with the Fiendish Dr. Wu. That whole bit was ridiculous and fantastic.
Michael: “Ha! I threw that shit before I walked in the room!” That may be the most quoted thing from this movie, although I’m partial to “I am smiling”, personally. This man’s lore drives the movie forward and it gives us so many amazing character moments.
Aaron: I can’t help wondering what it would be like to walk into this movie with no concept of satire. At times, the movie takes ridiculous stuff seriously, but other times it takes serious stuff… whatever the opposite of serious is. Black Dynamite’s cartoonish reaction to the orphans comes to mind as a moment that would seem terrible in another movie, but is just hilarious in this one. And I respect any satire that flagrantly uses the same car crash footage for different car crashes. The film knows how to do satire in a loving, skillful way that doesn’t seem mean-spirited or disruptive.
Michael: So there’s a lot more to the satire in this movie than I think you’re seeing, largely because I don’t think you’ve watched (m)any blaxploitation films. The “stylistic suck”, as you put it is all an homage to how poorly made some of those were. From casting a theatre actor to play his brother that was shot dead in the beginning (it was actually comedian Baron Vaughn, but that was the trope he represented), lingering on shots too long, reading script stage directions (“Sarcastically, I’m in charge!” which would be notated in a script as “(sarcastically) I’m in charge!”, to leaving in some of the actual accidents (Black Dynamite not being able to hang up the phone properly after his kung-fu session, and the car rolling when the goons pull up to shoot on him at Roscoe’s House of Chili & Donuts)…this movie’s “bad” is perfect, and is both a satire and a love letter to blaxploitation classics.
Aaron: Obviously there are some jokes I wouldn’t pick up on, for one reason or another. The closest thing I’ve watched to “blaxploitation” is Luke Cage on Netflix. I think the name of the genre has always been off putting to me, but if there are any genuinely good or entertaining films from the genre, I’d probably give it a shot. This works just well on its humor already, so that’s a plus.
Aaron: This is a hard movie for me to rate actually. It’s deliberately trying to be a B-Movie, but it does that so well that it’s hard to nitpick it. Punishing a B-Movie for being a B-Movie isn’t what I’m about, so, on its own terms, this gets bumped up a bit.
Michael: I really do find this to be one of the best comedies of the century. I think the jokes are so smart, the execution is flawless and it’s unapologetically stylistic (even if the style is intentionally “bad”). Every performance is exactly what it needs to be, and it’s a blast from start to finish.
Aaron: I feel like it’s tough for me to judge what the best comedies ever are, since mostly I just make bad puns.
Michael: There’s so much more out there. One day, you’ll say something truly funny. Until then though, we’ll just bear through it.
What’s your favorite genre parody film?
Aaron: Let’s keep things light for another week, looking at another childhood classic that has a bit more to it than it might seem.
Michael: I’ve caught bits and pieces of this but never in its entirety, and probably not even more than half. I’m looking forward to see the late great David Bowie in action here as well as a darker side to Jim Henson.
Aaron: I almost picked this last year when Bowie passed, but I think it’s better to let some time pass and judge it on its own merit.
What is your favorite non-Muppets movie from Jim Henson?
Check out our past reviews!
Mission: Impossible, They Live, Marvel’s Daredevil, The Silence of the Lambs, 12 Angry Men, The Usual Suspects, The Boondock Saints, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Iron Giant, Fargo, American Psycho, 28 Days Later, Frankenstein, Crank, The Godfather: Part II, American Beauty, Rocky, Alien, Spaceballs, Star Wars: Clone Wars, The Muppets Christmas Carol, Reservoir Dogs, Superman: The Movie, Lethal Weapon, Double Indemnity, Groundhog Day, The Departed, Breaking Bad, Shane, Glengarry Glen Ross, Blue Ruin, Office Space, The Batman Superman Movie: World’s Finest, Drive, Memoirs of a Geisha, Let the Right One In, Apocalypse Now, Aliens, The Incredible Hulk, A Clockwork Orange, Chicago, Seven, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, The Room, Chinatown, Jaws, Unforgiven, RoboCop, The Legend of Korra – Book One: Air, Ghostbusters, Spider-Man 2, Prometheus, Scarface, Gattaca, Monty Python & The Holy Grail, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, Equilibrium, City of God, The Graduate, Face/Off, Snowpiercer, The Exorcist, Hellboy, Village of the Damned, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Idiocracy, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Fly (1986), Under the Skin, Die Hard, Dredd, Star Wars Holiday Special, A Christmas Story, Snakes on a Plane, The Big Lebowski, Bulworth, Raging Bull, Thank You for Smoking, John Wick, Mulholland Drive, The Karate Kid, Lucky Number Slevin, The Searchers, Black Dynamite