Black Dynamite was one of those films that I found at just the right time. It arrived in 2009, just as I was starting my final year of university, in a year where I watched a lot of blaxploitation cinema for one of my film classes (getting to watch Blacula as part of a class on cinematic vampires? Awesome). It is, without a doubt, one of the most on-the-nose parodies of a genre I have ever seen, and one that is undeniably crafted with love.
Due to its limited release, I first saw Black Dynamite alone in an almost empty cinema, and was instantly saddened that such a comic masterpiece didn't have a bigger audience. That sadness disappeared with the very first scene, and so began a mere 84 minutes of unrelenting hilarity, the likes of which I have rarely seen outside of "so-bad-it's-good" staples like The Room or Birdemic.
It's in no way essential to be familiar with blaxploitation to appreciate Black Dynamite. The script is full to bursting with jokes that work just as well on the surface level as they do as call-backs and homages. For many, all you need is to be familiar with the canon of Quentin Tarantino, whose work is probably the closest mainstream white audiences will get to the genre. Stylistically, the film is a perfect recreation of blaxploitation tropes, from the fashion, to the low-budget effects, to the completely over-the-top levels of gore, right down to the stock footage stunts to save money. The film's riffs on the genre's own limitations are perfect. From a character reading his stage directions ("Sarcastically, I'm in charge,") to its shoddily employed green-screen (watch the helicopter scene, it's outstanding), every frame has been lovingly crafted to be as accurate as possible.
Then there’s the soundtrack. The chant of "DY-NO-MITE! DY-NO-MITE!" permeates every fight scene with the immediacy and iconography of Shaft, but still with a touch of self-deprecation.
What makes Black Dynamite work so well, however, isn't any of these singular elements. It's that this was clearly a project that Michael Jai White and the other filmmakers believed in and were passionate about, and that translates perfectly onto screen. The laugh-out-loud hilarious trailer was created from a combination of original and stock footage, purely to gain funding for the film. One of the many indicators of a great film is the desire for repeat viewings.
Given that I've watched Black Dynamite four times this year alone, I'd say it succeeds.