As contradictory as it sounds, it’s difficult to make a film bad on purpose for the sake of parody. On top of needing to be cheesy and ironically bad, such a film needs to be genuinely well-made and well-written to boot. Films such as Airplane! (1981), This is Spinal Tap (1984), and Hot Fuzz (2007) are prime examples of a movie that’s made hokey and awkward on purpose. Similar to these films, Scott Sanders’ Black Dynamite (2009) is a parody of both action movies and the Blaxploitation films of the 1970s, which is not only completely self-aware in its ridiculousness, but has the quality to back it up.
Black Dynamite is set in the 1970s, and follows the titular Black Dynamite (Michael Jai White), a womanizing master of Kung Fu, Vietnam veteran, and former CIA operative, who promises to wage a one-man war against the shady organization that killed his brother Jimmy. However, the trail left behind by Jimmy leads Black Dynamite’s path for payback right through a horde of gangsters, drug cartels, and a conspiracy larger than anyone could’ve imagined. This premise may make the movie sound like a muddled amalgamation of a half a dozen stereotypical action flicks, but that’s part of the joke. To put the film’s ridiculousness further into context, Black Dynamite can’t kill anyone for half the movie because his literal License to Kill has been revoked. This movie is filled with moments where characters repeat themselves into redundancy with stilted dialogue, then in the very next shot start leaping around the set in a cartoonish display of Kung Fu ridiculousness. The action is entertaining in that goofy way, with characters delivering flying double roundhouse kicks without breaking a sweat.
Even the film’s quality is purposefully off-kilter. There’s shots that become blurry and unfocused, a boom mic dangles into frame during a scene, and even the film’s soundtrack sings what Black Dynamite is thinking or doing, among other notable flaws. These tacky imperfections give the film charm, and brilliantly poke fun at the exploitation genre as a whole – a genre of movies known for producing low-quality films designed to exploit a niche interest for profit.
However, without knowing that the film is trying to be bad on purpose, both the film’s tone and length might be a turn-off for first time watchers. While fans of films like Kung Fury (2015) will be right at home with Black Dynamite, others might feel the movie would serve better as a goofy skit, web-series, or a short film.
That being said, there’s something to love about the amateur aura that surrounds Black Dynamite as a parody. Though some might find the movie to be too long, for fans of ridiculous homages, it’s worth checking out, and Coral Gables Art Cinema will be screening the film soon!
Tickets for the November 18th showing of Black Dynamite at the Coral Gables Art Cinema can be purchased here.
George Ibarra is a Senior at Florida International University, pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in English, along with a Certificate in Exile Studies.