Starring: Michael Jai White, Salli Richardson, Byron Keith Minns and Tommy Davidson
Rated: R Comedy, Action
Black Dynamite is set in the South Central community of Los Angeles, California. It is centered upon its main character, Black Dynamite, a man of the streets and questionable means of earning a living. A veteran of the Vietnam War and former operative with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), he learns that his younger brother, Jimmy, is murdered. However, his death appears to be more complicated.
Because the CIA knows the character of Black Dynamite, who wants the truth and vengeance, they re-instate Black Dynamite in order to stave off his potential destruction. His investigation leads to his discovery of complicated, nefarious plotting on the Black community, which he has vowed to protect. Integral to this plot is a new drug which is devastating.
With the aid of his friends in the ‘hood, Bullhorn (Byron Keith Minns) and Cream Corn (Tommy Davidson) and a new lady interest, Black militant, Gloria (Salli Richardson), can Black Dynamite discover the truth of who really is behind Jimmy’s death … how far reaching is this plot and what will they do to protect themselves? Viewers will have to see!
In this hilarious spoof of Blaxploitation films of the 1970s, Black Dynamite was written by Michael Jai White and Byron Keith Minns. Its inspiration came when White was listening to “Super Bad” by James Brown. Building on this with Minns, who is a fanatic about Blaxploitation culture, prompted further dialogue. It developed into composing the Black Dynamite script, which took about three weeks. Both men also created the screenplay with Scott Sanders, who directed the film.
An independent motion picture, it was made in just twenty days. It was filmed in Super 16 Color Reversal Kodak to gain a saturated, high contrast but grainy appearance. It was then converted to a digital format. Filmed on a low budget of almost three million dollars in Leimert Park, many African-American actors took a decrease in pay to act in it. To keep the costs low as well as to have greater authenticity, material from sources, such as sampling of Adolph Caesar who voiced over many Blaxploitation trailers, were used in the Black Dynamite trailer. This approach proved successful in gaining funding so they repeated it, incorporating content, including from Charlie’s Angels, of Sony Pictures Stock Footage to supplement the actual film.
Also to be true to its inspiration of Blaxploitation films, Black Dynamite contains purposeful errors in “tribute” to the historic era. Because these ‘70s Black films were extremely underfunded, they were often created under less than perfect production. As such, in Black Dynamite, there are nods to hanging boom mics; cheap-wig wearing, stunt doubles who look little like their acting counterpart; artificial blood that looks too bright; and untrained actors who actually include their stage directions as their characters’ lines of dialogue.
Its score, all original, was created by Adrian Younge. In his process, Younge looked to soul artists, especially those who created soundtracks for Blaxploitation films. These artists include Curtis Mayfield with Superfly (1972), which is ranked #72 on Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”, and Isaac Hayes, who won an Academy, Golden Globe and Grammy Award for his Shaft (1971). Younge also sampled music from the legendary hip-hop group, Wu-Tang Clan.
Premiering in 2009 at the Sundance Film Festival, Black Dynamite was primarily praised for its authentic parody of Blaxploitation films. Winning the Golden Space Needle Audience Award for “Best Film” at the Seattle International Film Festival, it beat out several hit films including the critically-acclaimed The Hurt Locker. The Hurt Locker is the only film in history directed by a woman, Katheryn Bigelow, to win an Academy Award for “Best Picture”.
Black Dynamite quickly became a cult classic. Its success led to the adult, animated series Black Dynamite, which was part of Adult Swim, the late night block of Cartoon Network. Michael Jai White, Byron Keith Minns, Tommy Davidson and Kym Whitley reprised their roles, à la voiceovers, for the cartoon. White and Black Dynamite film director Scott Sanders, along with Carl Jones, Brian Ash, Scott Fuselier, wrote the cartoon. Guests starring on the animated series included Tichina Arnold, Erykah Badu, Affion Crockett, Godfrey, David Alan Grier, Eddie Griffin, Arsenio Hall, Samuel L. Jackson, Phil LaMarr, Luenell, Mel B, Charlie Murphy, Clifton Powell, Cree Summer, Snoop Dogg and Waka Flock Flame. The Black Dynamite adult cartoon ran from 2012 until 2015; in its two seasons, there are twenty episodes.
There has been discussion for a follow-up to the Black Dynamite film. Reuniting Michael Jai White, Byron Keith Minns and Scott Sanders, the trio have made a trailer for a sequel of sorts, a western called The Outlaw Johnny Black.