Criterion’s April titles include Coppola’s Rumble Fish and Wim Wenders’ Buena Vista Social Club https://t.co/1PmfiylRaB
Release Date(s)2009 (February 16, 2010)
“First Lady, I’m sorry I pimp-slapped you into that china cabinet. I used excessive force. Oftentimes, I cross the line, but I try to do so in the name of what’s right. Most of the time, the ends justifies the means. But in this case, I feel like I betrayed my own code of ethics. And for that, sugar, I apologize.”
Black Dynamite is not only one of the best exploitation movies in recent years, it’s also one of the funniest movies of any decade. It plays more as an homage rather than a send-up, but you don’t have to be a fan of the genre it’s tackling to enjoy it. Most parodies tend to rely solely on the elements of a genre just for outrageous lampooning purposes. Black Dynamite, on the other hand, uses them for inspiration and storytelling, without ever setting foot outside the confines of the world the story takes place in. Coming out from that solid base, it not only makes the comedy stronger, but the story, as well. The film uses style, plot, look and sound to evoke a retro 70’s feel: frame jumps, out-of-sync dialogue, cheesy dialogue... even the actors looking off camera. It all comes together to sell the idea and manages to do so with flying colors and a ton of laughs.
The video presentation is what you would expect a grindhouse-type movie to look like, even in high definition. It looks anything but perfect, but for good reason. The transfer is absolutely solid and the overt style sells it beautifully. Grain is so solid that it’s almost non-existent and the muted color scheme gives it an earthy, lived-in feel, which is perfect for this kind of movie. I do think that at times, especially during the latter half of the movie, it tends to look a bit too perfect. Of course, this is when the real meat of the picture is being served and I suppose too much style could be a distraction from what’s going on. Then again, this is a comedy, so you be the judge. The soundtrack has also had some nice work put into it, however only one option has been made available: English 5.1 DTS-HD. I personally would have loved to see this get a mono track to help replicate that grindhouse-type feel, but there’s not much to complain about with what’s been presented. Dialogue is clear and audible (even when it’s out-of-sync), gunshots and explosions are as loud and powerful as you’d expect and the music is straight-up period cheese. It’s a very pleasing soundtrack with much more depth than I expected. I’m just curious how it would all work mixed into one channel. You also get three subtitle options: English, English SDH and French.
In the extras department, you get a very brief dose. It all starts off with an audio commentary with director Scott Sanders, actor/co-writer Michael Jai White, and another actor/co-writer Byron Minns. Next is a set of deleted and alternate scenes, which add up to almost 30 minutes (it’s also worth noting that the movie closes with deleted scenes and outtakes, as well). Then there are a couple of featurettes. The first, Lighting the Fuse, is a little over 20 minutes long and covers some of the making of the movie, albeit briskly. The 70s: Back in Action (a Blu-ray exclusive) talks mostly about the costumes and production design. The Comic-Con Experience is an extended run-down of the filmmakers’ promotion and Q&A at the 2009 Comic-Con. Along with Movie IQ and BD-Live options, the special features close out with a plethora of trailers for other Sony Pictures releases. What I found to be the most disappointing about the extras was the exclusion of not only the film’s theatrical trailer or any of the excellent posters and artwork used to promote the movie, but the extremely funny PSA’s that were floating around on YouTube during the film’s theatrical run. I found them thoroughly enjoyable and was gutted that they weren’t included with this release. Perhaps they can be included in a future double-dip (one can always hope).
In the grander scheme of things, this is a good release for those wanting a good-looking copy of the movie. Black Dynamite turned out to be a modest financial success and seems to have a growing fan base. I’m sure we’ll see more appearances of it on the format in the future. My hope for a another release is that the fans will be treated to an overabundance of extra content in addition to a healthy transfer. Even with its shortcomings, Black Dynamite is still a very funny movie and this release should keep casual viewers happy.
- Tim Salmons