BLACK DYNAMITE (15): On General Release Friday 13th August
Since spoof outings such as Airplane! and Naked Gun first began to emerge in cinemas, few artists can claim to have forged a successful career in the pastiche arena, frequently failing to match their predecessors for precision, execution or wit – well honed skills which earned those films their enduring comic appeal.
The most prominent figures within the genre – Jim Abrahams and David Zucker – would eventually see their masterpieces go on to influence monstrosities such as the Scary Movie quadrilogy and, even worse, the rom-com take-off Date Movie.
Zucker and Abrahams came onto the scene at the fag end of Hollywood’s second Golden Era, just as the sun was beginning to set on an epoch of unparalleled artistic achievement in the medium. Their own special brand of anarchic humour held Hollywood to account, ridiculing the absurd traditions that had come to define Tinsletown as producers appeared intent on solely green lighting films they felt certain would become blockbusters, even if that meant it was at the expense of the quality of the end product. Hence the 1980s obsession with franchises and sequels, the kind of marketing strategy that assumes audiences prefer a formula they’re familiar with rather than risk something new. It was inevitable that in this climate both Airplane! and Naked Gun would succumb to the dominant trend and each suffer a second instalment (though it would take a third effort for Naked Gun to truly plumb the depths).
So, flash-forward some three decades later and here comes Black Dynamite: a well endowed Afro-haired kung-fu expert tasked with defeating an evil honky crime lord who is flooding the ghetto’s orphanages with cheap junk and a special brand of malt liquor that causes grown men’s penises to shrink to microscopic size (evidently an effective method of racial intimidation). Black Dynamite derives its material and principle aesthetic from an array of Blaxploitation flicks, treating the genre like a giant tapas as it picks its way through Black Belt Jones, Willie Dynamite and Across 110th Street tasting a little bit from here and a few sprinklings from there.
Black Dynamite differentiates itself from the pitiful depths of Scary Movie’s ilk by having presumably learnt from the latter’s mistakes complimented by an intrinsic understanding of what makes a good spoof: principally to possess a great love for the genre you’ve chosen to lampoon in the first place. It takes a true fan to pay a decent homage to his or her passion, the signs of which Quentin Tarantino would doubtless agree are evident in this film.
The attention to period detail, the excellent soul/funk soundtrack, the scantily clad women, the wonderfully crass and simultaneously witty double entendres, the crash zooms, and Dynamite’s infectious trumpet stab of a theme tune that accompany his jubilant entrances into rooms, buoyant from a recent sexual escapade…everything ties together to produce a surprisingly satisfying Blaxploitation movie, its ludicrous central plot acting as the perfect frame from which to hang all the jokes. Films that lack this necessary factor end up as tepid, flat bore fests like Scary Movie which are irritatingly episodic as it lurches from lame sketch to wretch.
Unfortunately, Black Dynamite also mimics the genre‘s tendency to end up feeling baggy and overlong, nor can it resist the temptation to milk its central premise for all its worth which leaves the humour feeling somewhat overstretched by the conclusion. However, the film goes someway towards compensating for its faults with some genuinely funny dialogue and finely executed visual gags. Black Dynamite certainly isn’t for everyone, especially for those with an aversion to films that so willingly indulge in their own silliness. Let’s just hope the makers of Scary Movie are above making a parody of a pastiche but I wouldn’t hold your breath if I were you.