Ever since Scary Movie was released back in 2000, the art of “spoof” has taken a brutal and savage mauling. Having set in motion a chain of unspeakably bad, not to mention painfully unfunny follow ups to his original film, director Keenen Wayans also paved the way for the likes of Epic Movie (2007), Meet the Spartans (2007) and Dance Flick (2009) to name but a hideous few. For this very reason, I approached Scott Sanders’ Black Dynamite (2009) with more than just a hint of trepidation.
Thankfully, Black Dynamite manages to buck this recent trend by showing just how good spoof comedies can still be. Set in the 1970s and taking its influence from films of the same era such as Shaft (1971) and Black Belt Jones (1974), the story follows the titular Black Dynamite (Michael Jai White), a hilariously tough-talking ladies man, as he sets out to avenge the death of his brother. Armed with both a 44-Magnum and a set of nunchucks, he fights, intimidates and charms his way around town in order to find his brother’s killer. The resulting chain of events makes for one of the most brilliantly silly and sublimely funny spoofs of the decade.
Possessing a tone not too dissimilar from the classic TV show Police Squad, Black Dynamite throws any sense of subtlety aside, favouring a far more direct and farcical approach to its humour. The kung fu sequences in particular display the kind of deliberately awful sound dubbing and camera work that one might find in the kind of low budget ‘blaxploitation’ films of the time, as well as the kind often found in similarly low budget kung fu movies, such as Ninja Terminator (1985).
Michael Jai White also provides a great deal of the film’s funniest moments, playing the part of protagonist Black Dynamite with just the right amount of self aware absurdity, whilst ensuring that the performance never becomes too broad or brings about any sense of self parody.
In fact, this element of perfectly poised exposition in not only the performances, but the movie as a whole, is central to its overall success. Shot on Super 16 film and backed by a soulful, 70s soundtrack, Black Dynamite both looks and sounds thoroughly authentic, going someway to enhance the ludicrous nature of the comedy.
The script on offer is equally preposterous, providing moments of laugh out loud hilarity; the scene in which Black Dynamite and his gang attempt to decipher “Code Kansas”, results in one of the film’s funniest routines and comedic payoffs.
In many ways, the key to Black Dynamite’s success is its deference to the spoof techniques employed by many of its unbearably poor and lazily put together contemporaries, as well as Sanders’ decision to carry the piece in a more traditional spoof direction. Through combining such a perfect aesthetic with a plot and screenplay of ridiculously over the top humour, Sanders may just have helped put the spoof genre back on track.