'Black Dynamite': Ghetto Blaster, By Kurt Loder

Welcome back to the badass '70s.

Can Black Dynamite fend off the Man and the Mob and the phalanx of wah-wah guitars arrayed against him and fight his way to the Honky House to mete out kung-fu justice? Most likely!

The new movie "Black Dynamite" is more than just a fond, knowing tribute to '70s blaxploitation films (with echoes of "Enter the Dragon," too). It's a wild action-comedy with a magnetically deadpan star (Michael Jai White, last seen as a snarling hoodlum in "The Dark Knight") and a scholarly attention to genre detail. Not just the usual pimped-out purple fedoras, processed hair and tinted aviator shades, but also the lovable technical defects — the rancid color, the restroom lighting, the shifting commitment to focus. The movie is a celebration of cinematic insufficiency.

White, who's built like a tank and possessed of mad kung-fu skills, is pretty near perfect in the role of Black Dynamite, an ex-CIA commando just back from the 'Nam and pissed about a bad new kind of smack being funneled into the ghetto by evil ofays. Little kids are getting hooked — helpless little orphans, even. ("Orphans got no parents," B.D. sternly observes.) Not only that, there's a strange new brand of malt liquor on the street that's turning ... never mind. (Can't blow one of the movie's most hysterical jokes.)

On top of all that, some soon-to-be-dead crackers have rubbed out Black Dynamite's brother. So before long, he's making the rounds of local pimps, pushers and hot brothel mamas with a monster Magnum the size of a lug wrench and a really big set of nunchucks (which he carries around in his back pocket). Amid all the ensuing havoc, you'd think there wouldn't be room for a Chinese crime lord called Fiendish Dr. Wu, or an uninviting getaway called Kung-Fu Island, or an armed-and-dangerous doughnut. But you'd be wrong.

There's also room for carnal downtime, somehow, and our man has a smooth way with the ladies. (Sidling up to a hospital nurse, he says, "I think you're runnin' a temperature. Lemme see if I can find the thermometer.") One in particular has caught his eye, a pretty community activist named Gloria (Salli Richardson). She's resistant at first, but Black Dynamite soon lures her back to his ultra-'70s stud-pad, where ... well, let's just say there's no explaining some of the stuff in this movie.

Mostly, though, the picture flies by in a blur of martial-arts mayhem and low-budget vehicular pandemonium. (At one point, a car goes sailing off a cliff and blows up before it even hits the ground.) The mostly brilliant one-liners whiz by like buckshot. (Checking out Black Dynamite's fab digs, a wowed visitor says, "You must have an eight-track in every room.") And the ending — a hostile encounter in Washington, at the aforementioned Honky House — is spectacularly ridiculous.

Director Scott Sanders wrote the script with White and fellow actor Byron Minns; they shot this thing in three weeks and they've really nailed it. There's no winking irony and no heavy-handed film-referencing. The movie's like a blaxploitation classic you somehow missed back in the day. Time to catch up.

Don't miss Kurt Loder's reviews of "New York, I Love You" and "Where the Wild Things Are," both new in theaters this week.

Check out everything we've got on "Black Dynamite."

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