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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

Black Dynamite [Blu-ray]


(Scott Sanders, 2009)



Review by Leonard Norwitz



Theatrical: Destination Films & Ars Nova

Blu-ray: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment



Region: 'A'-locked (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:24:14.049

Disc Size: 36,386,281,105 bytes

Feature Size: 23,317,585,920 bytes

Video Bitrate: 31.15 Mbps

Chapters: 17

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: February 16th, 2010



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 3591 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3591 kbps / 24-bit (DTS
Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / Dolby Surround



English (SDH), English, French, none



• Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Scott Sanders, Actor/Co-Writer Michael Jai White & Actor/Co-Writer Byron Minns

• The 70s: Back in Action – in HD (14:08)

• Lighting the Fuse: Making-Of Black Dynamite – in SD (22:40)

• The Comic-Con Experience – in SD (18:00)

• Deleted & Alternate Scenes – in SD (25:06)

• Movie IQ

• BD-Live



The Film: 6
Blaxploitation! The term conjures up a picture of big gestures: loud clothes with louder colors, big hair, big guns, big shoes, big boobs and, by extension, big cocks. The movies that were a part of that mid-1970s phenomenon were made on the cheap and, thanks to a largely black audience who went to see these movies again and again, helped resuscitate a flagging industry – so we're told in the extra features. (Before I forgot to mention it, the Blu-ray exclusive bonus feature "The 70s: Back in Action" is required viewing for anyone who thinks of themselves as a film buff, and is a pretty good idea to watch before the feature film – gets you right in the mood.)

The heroes of those bygone movies were badass black men who were fast with the wisecracks, their weapons and their fists. The women didn't fare so well and were often there to help the men feel like "men" – if you know what I mean. Just about everyone was pimping, using, killing or whoring. The good guys did less of those things, but the line that separated the one from the other was not always clear.

Those were the days of Richard Roundtree, Jim Kelly, Pam Grier, Fred Williamson and Melvin Van Peebles (whose Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song I was lucky enough to see uncut in 1971.) But most of the material in those movies was pretty lame. The scripts and production values were often unintentionally laughable, and the final prints looked like they had seen better days even in their first run. Even I, who cringes at what passes for politically correct these days, shiver at the politically incorrectness that litters those movies.

Actor and black-belter, Michael Jai White thought it was high time to return to those days and, together with actor/writer Byron Minns and director Scott Sanders, concocted a satirical stew that tosses in just about every Blaxpoiltation plot device, misproduction cue, acting posture, and turn of phrase in the vaults. Added to this are make-up and costumes that are right out of the 70s attic (or cellar) and original music (by Adrian Younge) that pinpoints the time.


The plot centers on a one-man army known to just about everyone on the streets – and the CIA – as "Black Dynamite." When his brother is killed, "Black Dynamite" seeks revenge. His investigation leads him, kicking and shooting, from big and little jive turkey drug pushers all the way to the White House. Couldn't get bigger than that. And I would say "More power to 'im" except that a little of such indulgent homage goes a long way, and I suspect I would have been more amused if the picture quality weren't trying so hard to be faithful to its roots.


Image: 7/7    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

I'm sure there is nothing wrong with the transfer. I didn't notice any issues that I couldn't have been attributed to deliberate, cold-blooded intention: The color is often miles off, too yellow or too red; exposure is too over or too under; noise and speckles come and go; blacks gobble up the frame like a great white going after a seal. The filmmakers are so faithful to the genre that the look of the movie dominates just about every other aspect. And when it doesn't dominate, it competes. The bit rate is higher than the 16 mm stock may have deserved.















Audio & Music: 7/7
In keeping with the roots of the genre, the audio mix tends to be front-directed, except for the music score and the action sequences involving guns, which open things up into the surrounds some. The lossless DTS-HD MA track permits a clarity Blaxploitation never knew (so I had to ask myself: why have good audio but awful image?)


Operations: 6
The menu design employs some sweet cartoonish moves and takes over the frame nicely with information at each click. We find hidden pages, however, for the extra features (why there, but not for the chapter search, I wondered?)



Extras: 6
The Commentary and Bonus Features for this Blu-ray are generally helpful and/or entertaining, except for the deleted scenes, which by then I had had enough. I especially recommend "The 70s: Back in Action" for its retrospective, if a little uncritical, look at Blaxploitation.



Bottom line: 7
As mentioned above, I had a hard time with the deliberate faithfulness to Blaxploitation bad production values. It was a joke that wore out its welcome long before its genuinely amusing script and over the top camp action sequences could keep me from raiding the fridge. On the other hand, if you're fairy unfamiliar with the genre, Black Dynamite makes for a fun beer and pizza flic.

Leonard Norwitz
January 29th, 2010






About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.

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