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3.5 Stars out of 5
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Release Date: February 16th, 2010
Movie Release Year: 2009
Release Country: United States
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Black Dynamite

Review Date February 1st, 2010 by
Overview - The city streets explode into violence when "The Man" kills Black Dynamite's (Michael Jai White) brother in this seamless recreation of the blaxploitation classics of the 1970s. He was the best agent that the CIA ever had, but these days Black Dynamite only answers to one boss -- himself. When "The Man" ices Black Dynamite's brother, starts pumping heroin into the local orphanage, and floods the ghetto with a secret weapon disguised as common malt liquor, the car chases, gunfights, and shirtless brawls that follow prove wild enough to make even Dolemite green with envy. ~ Jason Buchanan, All Movie Guide
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  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs: Blu-ray,50GB Blu-ray Disc,BD-Live
    Video Resolution/Codec: 1080p/AVC MPEG 4
    Length:90
    Release Country:United States
    Aspect Ratio(s):1.85:1
    English Descriptive Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
    Subtitles/Captions: English,English SDH,French
    Special Features: Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Scott Sanders and Actors/Co-Writers Michael Jai White and Byron Minns
    Lighting the Fuse
    The '70's: Back in Action
    The Comic-Con Experience
    Deleted Scenes
    Movie Studio: Sony Pictures
    Release Date: February 16th, 2010

Story Review Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

3 Stars out of 5

The first time I checked my watch during 'Black Dynamite' was at exactly the 30 minute mark. This, to me, is emblematic of the film's problem as a whole: when it's "on," it's smart, snappy, knowing, and laugh-out-loud hilarious, but really, it should have just been a short film.

The basic premise of 'Black Dynamite' is to combine every major Blaxploitation movie ('Dolemite,' 'Shaft,' 'Sweet Sweetback's Bad Assssss Song' etc.) into one knowing package. Michael Jai White plays Black Dynamite, a black private eye looking to avenge the death of his brother. Along the way, he meets some colorful characters (including Tommy Davidson's street hustler Cream Corn) and uncovers a conspiracy that involves, among other things, bodies of slain Vietnam soldiers and a malt liquor that makes black men's penises shrink.

There's plenty of karate action, sexy broads, car chases, and pimps. 'Black Dynamite' is kind of to 1970's Blaxpoitation movies what 'Austin Powers' was to 1960's spy movies – a knowing combination of loving homage and gentle spoof. It's just that, through the 'Austin Powers' time travel conceit, the movie looked and felt like it was made in the here and now, while 'Black Dynamite' is going for a much more genuine, 'found footage' feel.

Director Scott Sanders staged everything to look like it was made in the 1970's, and even copied the problematic production of those movies in 'Black Dynamite,' like the time a microphone dips into frame or when Black Dynamite can't read his cue cards correctly. This may sound too over the top, but it's really not. In fact, you get so sucked into the action story of 'Black Dynamite' (before it goes off the deep end) that the goofy embellishments are more endearing than distracting.

But a little of this goes a long way. Even though Michael Jai White is superb in the title role (really, who knew he was this good?), the movie is a bit one-note. There were times that I thought, had the Weinsteins' 'Grindhouse' series actually taken off as hoped, that this would have been an ideal candidate for a future 'Grindhouse' double feature. But other times, the movie felt redundant and sagged to the point that I thought it'd never regain its mojo (it does, towards the end).

At some point on the special features they say this was originally just a short film, which was inspired by Michael Jai White listening to a James Brown song (seriously). We never get to see the short film in the special features, sadly, but it makes perfect sense. The movie's dogged attention to detail and period (and cinematic) accuracy would probably have ensured that the short film be one of the all-time greats. As it stands, it's a movie with a lot of promise that goes on for too long and occasionally falters.

Is 'Black Dynamite' super fun, full of outstanding period detail and fine, full bodied performances? Yes. Does it drag on for a little too long? Yes. Would it have been the greatest short film of all time? Probably. But if you're watching 'Black Dynamite' with a bunch of your buddies (and they too know the long and storied history of urban black cinema), then this could be a riotously good time on the couch. While it's far from dynamite, it's still a whole lot of fun.

The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

The 50GB Blu-ray disc does auto-play, followed by a few crummy trailers for things like 'Boondock Saints II' and another 'Universal Soldier' retread. It is Region "A" locked and BD-Live ready. Sucka.

  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs:
    Blu-ray,50GB Blu-ray Disc,BD-Live
    Video Resolution/Codec:
    1080p/AVC MPEG 4
    Length:90
    Release Country:United States
    Aspect Ratio(s):
    1.85:1
    Audio Formats:
    English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
    Subtitles/Captions:
    English,English SDH,French
    Special Features:
    Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Scott Sanders and Actors/Co-Writers Michael Jai White and Byron Minns
    Lighting the Fuse
    The '70's: Back in Action
    The Comic-Con Experience
    Deleted Scenes
    Movie Studio: Sony Pictures
    Release Date: February 16th, 2010

Video Review

4 Stars out of 5

'Black Dynamite's MPEG-4 AVC 1080p transfer (in the film's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio) does a great job of preserving the film's distinctive '70's look.

To explain: the film was shot on Super 16 mm Color Reversal Kodak stock, which means that if someone complains about black "crush" in a review, then they're being stupid. That is one of the qualities the filmmakers were going for (this is explained on one of the special features too). They were going for a high contrast, super-saturated look. And on this transfer it looks dyno-mite.

Additionally, the film is inter-cut with footage from old movies and occasional file footage, so those sequences will look even grainier. There is heavy grain throughout the movie, which adds to its period-specific feel, but things don't get overwhelming or cartoonish like in the 'Grindhouse' movies.

Elsewhere, the transfer is pretty eye popping, particularly in its rendering of the costumes' day-glo color scheme and in some finer detail in props and locations. The blacks are obviously quite impressive, too. Even though it's meant to look sort of crummy, this transfer delivers, big time.

Audio Review

4 Stars out of 5

Just as good as the transfer, though, is the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack.

The film's score was created using analogue '70's technology and it sounds absolutely amazing here. It booms. Dialogue is crisp, clear and well prioritized throughout, sound effects really pop, with action scenes taking on additional support from the back speakers. All sorts of craziness erupts in 'Black Dynamite' between gun fights, fist fights, and karate action, and it all sounds super fly here.

Sometimes there are occasional (and intentional) "pops" in the audio, but otherwise it's decidedly glitch-and-bug free. Overall this is a really wonderful mix.

While there's only one audio option, there are subtitles in English, English SDH, and French.

Special Features

3 Stars out of 5

Sony brings 'Black Dynamite' to Blu-ray with a small trove of special features that are neither out of sight nor jive turkey.

  • Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Scott Sanders and Actors/Co-Writers Michael Jai White and Byron Minns While I worried at first that this track would be too jokey, you soon realize that if these guys didn't have an encyclopedic knowledge of Blaxploitation movies, then they sure do now, and their goofiness turned out to be quite charming. They talk about every facet of the movie in great, lively detail. This track is definitely worth your time if you're a fan of the movie.
  • Lighting the Fuse (HD, 22:48) This fairly in-depth look at the conception and execution of 'Black Dynamite' is well done and thorough. You'll hear how Michael Jai-White came up with the idea while shooting a movie in Eastern Europe then got back to the states, rented some '70's clothes, and shot a short film. You'll also hear how that short film was transformed into the movie you see before you. This is a winning little feature and makes a lot of the other stuff (particularly the Comic Con footage) seem redundant and unnecessary.
  • Comic Con Experience (HD, 18:04) This is video from the 'Black Dynamite' panel at the San Diego Comic Con last summer. Interestingly enough it's moderated by Elvis Mitchell, and features most of the principles you'll see elsewhere in these special features. All the stuff they cover here is pretty redundant, though, although it is nice to see a Comic Con audience get excited about something that doesn't involve tights.
  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 25:11) A couple of these scenes are kind of funny, but these deleted scenes go a long way in appreciating how fine the calibration of comedy was in the movie itself. These guys knew when they were going a little too far, pushing the movie into slightly too absurd a scenario, and when to pull back. So this is all that silliness that didn't feel right in the body of the movie. You could watch these scenes if you're a super-fan of the film, and you might get some chuckles, everyone else can skip them pretty easily.

Final Thoughts

I liked 'Black Dynamite' a lot, but didn't love it. If you're looking for a fun night in and enjoyed things like 'Grindhouse,' then you'll probably have fun here. It's definitely worth a rental for those who haven't seen it yet, and it's excellent A/V and nice collection of extras will keep you groovin'. If you've already seen (and love the movie), definitely pick it up. If not, you can be counted amongst the jive turkeys.

Sale Price $14.77
List Price $19.99
Buy Now
3rd Party $14.76
Usually ships in 24 hours
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  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs:
    Blu-ray,50GB Blu-ray Disc,BD-Live
    Video Resolution/Codec:
    1080p/AVC MPEG 4
    Length:90
    Release Country:United States
    Aspect Ratio(s):
    1.85:1
    Audio Formats:
    English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
    Subtitles/Captions:
    English,English SDH,French
    Special Features:
    Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Scott Sanders and Actors/Co-Writers Michael Jai White and Byron Minns
    Lighting the Fuse
    The '70's: Back in Action
    The Comic-Con Experience
    Deleted Scenes
    Movie Studio: Sony Pictures
    Release Date: February 16th, 2010