Thoroughly silly and enjoyable for film geeks who know the old '70s blaxploitation canon, Black Dynamite suffers from the Grindhouse paradox: As Quentin Tarantino discovered, not everyone outside his immediate circle of friends actually cares that much about lovingly reviving cinematic curios of the past. And Tarantino spent a lot more to achieve his little-seen tribute. Black Dynamite would've worked better as part of a Grindhouse triple bill, and there certainly would've been more dialogue to fill the dead spots. Co-writer and star Michael Jai White treats this material deadpan-straight, meaning that he and co-writer/director Scott Sanders recreate the stilted lines, stiff acting, cheap lighting, and leaps of plot logic that plagued the poor sons of Shaft. Grindhouse was expensive cheap; Black Dynamite is cheap cheap. And for those expecting a Zucker/Wayans brothers–style spoof, the gags don't come nearly fast enough. That said, I, a total film geek, giggled all the way through. Though the hugely buff White, as the kung fu-kickin', multiple-lady-lovin' ex-CIA agent Black Dynamite, is no Leslie Nielsen, he has his moments. When a ghetto lovely remarks that he never flirts or smiles, he responds from beneath clenched jaw and fixed, immobile moustache: "I am smiling."
The ladies (Nicole Sullivan, left, and Salli Richardson) love White.
Opens at Varsity, Fri., Oct. 16. Rated R. 88 minutes.Read our interview with star Michael Jai White and director Scott Sanders.