The Dynamite Brothers (1974)
John D’Amato, Marvin Lagunoff and Jim Rein
Alan Tang, Timothy Ray, Aldo Rey, Lam Ching-Ying, Carol Speed and James Hung
||The Plot: Our story immediately begins with Wei Chin (James Hong) showcasing his guards as they do a little Karate out in the front of his mansion. We quickly find out that Wei Chin is a drug pusher who is looking to bring in a huge shipment of heroin that will then flood the ghetto. Wei Chin is awaiting the arrival of Larry Chin (Alan Tang), a foe from his past who he feels may be a danger to his drug-smuggling business. When Wei Chin arranges for his soldiers to be waiting for Larry at the dock, they are quickly dispatched since Larry is also a master of Kung Fu. After roaming Los Angeles for a few days, Larry is eventually picked up by the police who try to put him in a squad car with Stud Brown (Timothy Brown), but the two manage to escape with their superior fighting abilities. Larry intends to search out his missing brother, while Stud simply intends to survive. After hooking up with The Smiling Man, a pimp who runs a bar, these two find work putting the hurt on Wei Chin and his drug business. Both men eventually find love, Stud with a mute girl who works at Smiling Man’s bar (Carol Speed), and Larry with a young woman who gave both he and Stud a ride into LA. However, their love lives will have to wait as they battle their way through the criminal element in order to put an end to the drug business and find out where Larry’s brother has disappeared to.
There are few things that could get me as hyped up as a genuine combination of the blaxploitation film genre and the Kung Fu film world. When you take two equally great things, there is the understandable belief that the end results will be even more spectacular. Although the main cast attached to this project are unquestionably third or fourth-tier for either of these genres, this combination is enough to immediately grab my attention. When I did just a wee bit of studying on the film, I did find a surprisingly strong supporting cast and a pretty sordid reputation. Not known as a fine piece of cinema, Dynamite Brothers
has certainly developed a cult appreciation throughout the years. Knowing these few things about the film, I knew it was only a matter of time before I covered it here on Varied Celluloid. It could very well be seen as a Kung Fu title, or Blaxploitation pick, but most of all The Dynamite Brothers
is a strange little number that at its very best paints a portrait of 1970s cinema in a nutshell. At its very worst, however, it is also a magnifying glass for what cheaply made independent exploitation titles were like during this era as well. The Dynamite Brothers
works best as a distraction that shouldn’t be taken all too serious, but instead it would be best reserved for a fun evening with some friends.
Filled to the brim with colorful character, Dynamite Brothers
is certainly a title that reflects the time and era that it was made in. Characters such as Razor J, a goon who wears sunglasses while in dark nightclubs and uses a straight razor to carve up his enemies, is only the first of many stereotypical villains within the film. Wei Chin is another money grubbing nefarious dweeb played by James Hung, from a long line of dweebs that he has played throughout his career. Carol Speed, the blaxploitation legend, shows up in a supporting role as a mute, which is really something surprising. Had she been able to speak, I am sure she would have had the best line delivery within the entire film. The police captains are everything one expects from the blaxploitation genre. Racist, fat, corrupt and terrible in their roles. Aldo Rey is surprisingly bad in his role, and seems to be cashing a check without the slightest bit of care. It might as well be Dolemite
all over again, because Rey and the rest of the police officers are played without any sense of realism or subtlety. Then there is The Smiling Man. A bar owner and entrepreneur who is being pushed around by Wei Chin’s people, because Wei Chin wants him to push dope. Smiling Man has a distinguished look, as he deeply resembles some kind of strange cross between the idealized version of a voodoo witch doctor, and your run-of-the-mill Los Angeles-based pimp. He stands out in a movie full of over-the-top stereotypical characters, which is quite the accomplishment.
The movie is often filled with really unsightly cinematic mistakes. It becomes obvious why the movie was chosen by the cast of Mystery Science Theater 3000
when they decided to create the roadshow known as Cinematic Titanic
. Although it never delves so low that the entire production seems incompetent, it certainly isn’t far from being considered as such. When you watch the movie, there are simply moments that stick out as being laughable. Shots such as the one where Timothy Brown and Alan Tang jump out of the back of a “speeding’ truck that seems to be moving at about three miles per hour… these things are quite noticeable, and the movie doesn’t do the best job in hiding how cheap it appears to have been made. The acting, from the majority of the cast, also leaves a lot to be desired. The movie, due to the poor acting, is reserved for the world of b-movie cinema and it has no chance of being anything else. Al Adamson, who was a b-movie veteran well before this film was ever thought of, surprisingly doesn’t show off a great deal of talent in this production. You would think that a man who had been involved in so many productions would at least know how to make his project look or feel vaguely interesting, but unfortunately he does not deliver. Instead, the plot meanders at times and the movie lacks any sort of visual punch that might liven things up.
The fight choreography, which is always a important aspect of a true Kung Fu film, is actually well accomplished. This should come as no surprise, since genre veteran Lam Ching Ying was actually the choreographer for the film. Best known as the star in the Mr. Vampire
series, he was always quite adept in his own fight scenes, and he was a solid choreographer as well. Although Timothy Brown certainly had no history within the genre, he does do a decent job at making his fight sequences look convincing. With a background as a NFL star, Brown certainly possessed the raw athleticism needed for such a role and it no doubt helped him to take on many of the very demanding action scenes. Alan Tang is also quite serviceable in his role, but he hardly seems up to being a martial arts cinematic hero. He has screen presence, but throughout most of the film he simply seems to stare off into space. Timothy Brown, it would seem, was the intended star for this vehicle. The former NFL star does a competent job, but he hardly impresses. Best reserved for action scenes, and filling extremely tight pants, his acting abilities are just enough to get him by. The actors who portray the police officers throughout the movie may be the weakest links during the entire movie, as they constantly drag the movie to a ridiculous halt.
This is everything you expect from a cheesy piece of seventies exploitation. Extremely poor jazz music (think: the jangly piano tunes heard in Manos: The Hands of Fate
), bad acting and a pulp plot that barely ties together. However, the movie can be quite a bit of fun when it hits its stride. The character introduced throughout the movie are all fun, and the action sequences are handled very well. I give the movie a high two out of five. It isn’t great cinema, but it serves its purpose.
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