Scott Sanders’s blaxploitation spoof “Black Dynamite” was one of the first films to be picked up at Sundance ’09, Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Group, and Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Group asked new outlet Apparition to release this film in US theatrically. The film stars co-writer Michael Jai White as a buff Vietnam Vet, ex-CIA agent, and all-around badass, Black Dynamite. Dynamite must find “The Man,” because the man is decimating orphanages with heroin addiction and addicting black adults to malt liquor.
In an “A” review from Entertainment Weekly‘s Owen Gleiberman, he begins by commenting on how much the film looks like a real blaxploitation film. He continues, “So if Black Dynamite is that much of a Xerox copy of what it’s satirizing, why watch it at all? Why not just rent Willie Dynamite or Super Fly? Because Sanders, while playing the details straight, draws attention to them in a way the original films didn’t. He gooses the built-in contradiction of blaxploitation films: They were pulp fantasies of infinite power and machismo — in essence, black Superman fantasies — made in a style so crude, on budgets so meager, that an absurd degree of wish fulfillment was encoded into their very tawdriness.”
Roger Ebert, though less enthusiastic, agrees with the film’s relationship to the mid-century genre. He says, “I’ve seen a lot of 1970s blaxploitation films, and I’m here to tell you that “Black Dynamite” gets it mostly right, and when it’s wrong, it’s wrong on purpose and knows just what it’s doing. It’s one of those loving modern retreads of older genre movies.” Cinematical‘s Scott Weinberg focuses on “Dynamite”‘s status within the genre of spoofs, “Even if you wouldn’t know ‘Hammer’ from ‘Blacula,’ there’s a good deal of straightforward silliness to be found in ‘Black Dynamite’ — and it also feels like one of those eminently quotable comedies that frat guys and movie geeks will come back to time and again. ‘Black Dynamite’ is to blaxploitation what ‘Austin Powers’ is to ’60s spy flicks — and really, how many young comedy fans know anything about ‘In Like Flint,’ ‘Sweet Charity,’ or ‘Modesty Blaise’? Very few, I’d wager, but that didn’t prevent ‘Austin Powers’ from becoming a mega-popular franchise.”
In a measured reading of the film, The Hollywood Reporter‘s James Greenberg says, “The action jump-starts when Dynamite’s kid brother is wiped out, gangland-style, in the opening scene. The rest of the film is a campy march through characters and fights as the hero seeks revenge for the killing. It’s not like there’s much at stake or emotional involvement in the characters, but it’s amusing to watch them do their thing — to a point.”
The Village Voice‘s Melissa Anderson is less enthusiastic of the film in light of the genre it imitates, “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.” Nick Schager, in a rare but thoughtful critique of the film’s star, says, “His character’s ego as big as his muscles, Jai White’s embodiment of idealized African-American physical and sexual might is goofily pitch-perfect. Yet the nagging sense that he’s in on the joke renders his performance, and the rest of the proceedings, lifeless, to the point that even a finale involving penis-shrinking malt liquor conspiracies and a nunchuck-wielding Tricky Dick proves more bad than badass.”