Michael Jai White on Black Dynamite
By Fred Topel | Image property of Sony Pictures
Michael Jai White has paid his dues fighting Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme, doing straight to video action or forgotten comic book movies. It’s time for his own vehicle, and Black Dynamite is perfect for him. The send-up of blaxploitation films lets White spoof his favorite genre.
Michael Jai White is Black Dynamite
“Personally, I love the ‘70s,” White said. “It’s just something I really enjoy doing. I used to have these blaxploitation parties at my house. We really enjoy these films. We had these movies where the moral standpoint of the movie is from a pimp. I started really looking at things, like Jim Brown movies and everything, and I’m going, ‘What does he do? He just killed 60 white people.’ So there’s that funny element but also a very proud element. We’re coming after the ‘60s really. It was politically charged at the time and we had these bigger than life heroes like Jim Brown and Fred Williamson. It was the first time black people could see other black people in a dominant role. Everything up until that time was like subservient type of roles. So it meant a lot to not only black people but white people, white kids. And those are the heroes.”
Black Dynamite is White’s version of the kick-ass hero. He takes the law into his own hands when the man kills his brother, and gets the job done better than any suits. “It’s kind of pervasive in every culture, are they not? Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, are they not? We have the heroes that kind of fought for the poor. You’ve got your Dillingers and everything else. Very much in the black community, it was the same way. I thought it bared some looking into later on. For me personally, as a kid seeing somebody like Jim Brown and wanting to be like that, seeing these alpha males in my color, that was a huge thing. Even for white kids, also, you want to live vicariously through a character. Sometimes you want to live vicariously through that character. Fred Williamson, you wanted to have that swagger for about an hour and a half. You got your Clint Eastwoods. You want to be him for a while. Maybe you want to be like the Jim Brown, kicking ass, knocking down everything that’s in his way.”
Perhaps it’s finally time to look back on blaxploitation, since African-American culture is everywhere. “I just thought it was really interesting, plus I love the ‘70s. I think music was the best at that time. Films were the best. When you look at this garishness of this blaxploitation era, the outfits, the fashion, the hypersexuality. That whole thing, you’re seeing a lot of it right now because we’re in such repressed times. You’re seeing it all over HBO and everything else, I think it’s working for a certain reason.”
Black Dynamite didn’t have to go too far to spoof the originals. They were already plenty over the top. “Oh man, there’s so many. There’s Avenging Disco Godfather. Oh my gosh. Oh my God, Rudy Ray Moore, his delivery in that. I don't know if you notice, in the middle of the movie when all three of them get together, there’s this Three the Hard Way song. This song in the lyrics tells you everything that’s going to happen in the movie. You don’t even need to see the rest of the movie because this song says everything. So it’s like wow, this is hilarious. You know the song was created later and whoever the song maker was kind of wrapped up the entire movie, but they’re playing it in the center, right in the middle. Then there’s the famous scenes when Jim Kelly, the police fight where Jim Kelly changes footwear between takes. He walks in the car, he’s got on boots. He ends up kicking an officer, he’s got on sneakers. He changes shoes like three times. That element where it’s taken absolutely seriously.”
Black Dynamite opens to theaters October 16th, 2009.
For the trailers, posters and more movie info, go to the Black Dynamite Movie Page.
Sources: Image property of Sony Pictures
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