PictureBlack Dynamite comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p resolution, encoded using the AVC codec and framed within a theatrically correct 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The disc itself is locked to region A.
If ever there was a disc that highlights the pitfalls of having to numerically rate visual quality then this is it. Depending on your point of view, it is either a fine example of the medium or a disc that will leave you underwhelmed. The problem lies in the stylistic choices made for the look of the film. Shot on 16mm colour reversal film stock, the resulting image is perfectly in tune with the source material that is being parodied, but not what some would want from their Blu-rays.
There are several potential issues viewers may have with the filming method. For starters, grain is thick and heavy, but this swathing across the screen helps make the transitions between modern and archive footage far less jarring. Blacks are crushed to the extreme, with some shots eliminating any surface detail from clothing completely. Another side effect of this pushed contrast is the low shadow detail, particularly with areas of the frame around the periphery. Colours take a hit as well with this method, with there being a notable tint to scenes, but one that changes at times. There are moments where it seems a definite red push and others where it falls closer to magenta.
All these discrepancies and more beside are intentional though, and the only applicable gripe I could aim at this disc's visual aptitude is that of an occasional lack of focus. This appears more budgetary than stylised. Make no mistake, this is an engaging image, but the heightened colourisation, crushed detail, excessive grain and synthesised debris that pop up sporadically need to be viewed in the context of the film makers' vision. Some may call it flat and lacking in detail, I'd say it is a fine specimen of an artistically aged movie.
SoundAudio options on the disc are limited, with the only available choice being that of an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track.
This is a fairly front heavy mix, with the frankly phenomenal musical score taking centre stage for much of the film's duration. The original compositions by Adrian Younge really deserve to be heralded as not only a fine homage to the music he is trying to emulate, but also as artistic in their own right. Think funky Spinal Tap and you're on the right track, as his parodied melodramatic beats and lyrics could easily be from a period Blaxploitation flick. As such, I honestly wasn't overly fussed that this mix foregoes a certain amount of surround action as the front speakers more than make up for that.
That isn't to say that surround use is neglected entirely though, as the action set pieces bring with them a few nice touches, but for the main part these aren't utilised to the extent that one might associate with a lossless track on Blu-ray. With this being a comedy, speech was always going to be paramount and I'm pleased to say that this has been well balanced against the score which overlays most of the on-screen shenanigans. Dialogue is clear, with only a couple of instances of mumbling being less than perfectly captured. The sub lends a helping hand to the music and the gunfights but the stylised nature of gunshots, ranging from firecracker machine guns to booming hand cannons, means that there wasn't any necessity for a sustained shaking of the viewer. If anything I found it to be a little on the light side, but again this seems perfectly in keeping with the source material as it stops the audio seeming out of synch with the intentionally threadbare visuals.
This is a fine mix that emphasises the atmosphere via the musical arrangements rather than opting for an all out 360 degree audio bubble that assaults the listener. It stays fairly front heavy but with sharp dialogue and a well rounded score there is little more one could reasonably ask for from a low budget comedy feature such as this.
ExtrasCommentary with Scott Sanders, Michael Jai White and Byron Minns
This comes across as a jovial chat between friends which still manages to cover the subject matter at hand. It gives us insights into the production and just how each member came to the project. It is clear that this was a labour of love to those involved and this track hands us some handy reference points as to which films were specifically parodied/studied.
Deleted and alternate scenes - 25:15
A total of seventeen deleted and alternate scenes that found their way to the cutting room floor. It is quite hard to judge the quality of these moments as without the backing of the music it all feels strangely flat. Still, most of this seems to be filler material and apart from a couple of instances wouldn't have made the grade of the final film anyway. It's always nice though to be given the opportunity to see just how much was trimmed in an edit, in order to keep the comedy flowing smoothly.
Lighting the fuse - 22:48
The cast and crew discuss all aspects of the film, from conception through to production. I always enjoy seeing just how small scale projects like this made the leap from one man's imagination to the big screen and this featurette ticks all the right boxes in that respect. White tells us about how the idea came to him whilst listening to a James Brown song and how things snowballed from there. Of particular interest is the credit shown to costume designer Ruth E. Carter and editor/music composer Adrian Younge, without whom this film would sorely lack the atmosphere and attention to detail that underpin its very essence.
The '70s: Back in action - 14:13
In what is really an overflow of footage from the previous featurette, this merely comprises the moments where the cast and crew are discussing the 1970s and why it was a special decade to them. The usual bases are covered; kung fu, Blaxploitation, music, fashion etc. What is recognisable is just how much period authenticity was placed at the forefront of production due to the mutual warmth felt for the era in question by members of the crew and cast.
The Comic-Con experience - 18:04
A question and answer panel held at the San Diego International Comic-Con. As anyone who has ever been to one of these or anything similar will know, they can either be very informative, or the participants can die a slow death by attempting to sell their product to a disinterested crowd wary of them. Luckily White and co appear at ease and talk openly about their influences and more besides, without seeming threatened or out of place in a room full of geeks. It is nice to see that the answers weren't edited down to bite sized chunks, instead being left as continuous takes which maintains the interplay between those answering.
Ten trailers in total: The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day, Universal Soldier: Regeneration, H2: Halloween II, Kung Fu Hustle, Moon, Snatch, Soul Power, Breaking Bad, Michael Jackson's This Is It and finally Zombieland.
VerdictBlack Dynamite won't be to everyone's tastes. It is aimed at those who have an affinity for parodies, have some knowledge of Blaxploitation cinema and like their comedy decidedly on the silly side. Yet I found it far more accessible than these parameters would initially indicate it to be. The perfectly created '70s atmosphere, coupled with gags that vacillate between overt slapstick and downright subtle will no doubt gain it a far wider audience, and deservedly so.
The disc itself is similarly strong, with all the areas of audio, visual and extras well catered for. The presentation style may not sit well with those who like their Blu-rays pristine, but it depicts the material in the manner in which it was intended. The music is a joy to hear in lossless audio and the bonus features all have a warmth to them that shows us that small budget comedies, when made by those with drive and passion, are far from dead in the current climate of barnstorming blockbusters. This sits right at the top of my current favourites pile.
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