Saturday, 14 April 2012

The Dynamite Brothers (1974)

Larry Chin (Alan Tang) arrives in San Francisco looking for his estranged brother. While there he is apprehended by corrupt police detective Burke (Aldo Ray) who also has small-time crook Stud Brown (Timothy Brown) with him. Both Larry and Stud manage to escape and head to Los Angeles. Stud agrees to help find a criminal called Tuen (James Hong) who knows the whereabouts of his brother.

This is going to be a tough one to review. The reason being despite having just finished watching the movie moments before writing this review, I'm actually struggling to really put down my thoughts in any lengthy way. This is mostly due to the fact that The Dynamite Brothers is such a completely bland film to really go into anything in any detail would be a waste of my time. Still, I'll try my best to present an honest critique of this rather plain but some some small ways curious piece of 70's Blaxploitation Kung Fu Cinema.

First of all, let's discuss the man who directed this picture; Al Adamson. For those who may be unfamiliar, Al Adamson was a low budget exploitation film maker who was more known for making horror then action movies. Having directed films with titles such as Blood of Dracula's Castle and Satan's Sadists it seemed that he tried to cash in on the trend of martial arts and Black cinema in the 1970s by coming up with his own take on the genre.

He also directed a couple other Blaxploitation martial arts films later on; Black Samurai and Death Dimension, both starring Jim Kelly. It wasn't until gathering information on this film that I realised I own both those films so they may end up being reviewed here some time in the future. Getting back to The Dynamite Brothers, it seems Adamson was a director who worked with noticeably low budgets but seemed at least creative enough to make good use of it. While his films may have looked cheap compared to some of the other films Hollywood studios may have been doing at the time, nevertheless he seemed to be able to spend money wisely on his productions.

He even had the incredible foresight to import a Hong Kong stunt team to take charge of the action as well. Lam Ching-Ying was the action director and he brought with him some familiar faces such as Peter Chan, Philip Ko, Mars and Billy Chan. Seeing this group of people in a predominantly American production during this time is very impressive so I have to at least give Adamson credit for getting these guys on board. The late Alan Tang plays one of the co-leads. He had already established himself as a major star in Taiwan and Hong Kong during this time, having made a number of films which made him very popular with local Audiences. He gives a pretty decent performance and handles himself pretty well during the many fight scenes. The odd thing is, for the majority of his dialogue even though he can be seen speaking English, his voice is dubbed yet there are a couple scenes when it is apparent you can hear his own voice and his English was perfect. Why they felt his voice needed to be re-dubbed in his other scenes seems like an odd decision.

Starring opposite Tang is Timothy Brown in the role of Stud Brown. A former NFL star who played for the Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles and Baltimore Colts. He's also probably best known for playing the role of Capt. Oliver Jones in the immensely popular TV series M*A*S*H. He does well enough here, shows a little bit of charisma and shares some amount of chemistry with Tang. James Hong plays the main villain. Hong is arguably one of the most recognizable actors to have ever worked in the motion picture and television industry. With an incredible 367 acting credits he's appeared in hundreds of films and television series. By this point in his career he had already appeared in a large number of television series and The Dynamite Brothers is one of his earliest film appearances. He plays the typical bad guy character, letting his henchmen do all the work while he sits around and pulls mean faces.

The rest of the cast however are bad. Really bad. Some of them are bad in a way that it becomes comical. Especially Don Oliver in the role of Smiling Man. A gang boss who talks smack and has an army of gun totting canon fodder ready whenever anyone decides to bomb his club.

As mentioned earlier Lam Chin-Ying was in charge of the martial arts action. It's evident from the very first fight scene that while it was choreographed well enough, it was filmed really badly. Adamson may have wanted the fighting to have a Hong Kong flavour to it but it seems they didn't have enough time to do proper camera set ups and as a result the fight scenes do suffer. Lam's choreography is good. Not the best that was around at the time but good enough for a production like The Dynamite Brothers. His style of action seems to concentrate on using kicks with a few fist techniques thrown in. Tang makes for a convincing on-screen fighter. He has several fight scenes and comes off looking like a legitimate tough guy through out all of them.

There's a good fight between him and Peter Chan. Both use kicking techniques and they have some good exchanges. I would have liked it to have been longer and also to have had a more satisfying ending but the way it does end is typical of Adamson's style as it seemed he was iching to get some blood in there. Brown partakes in a few fights but seeing as he's not a martial artist nor is the character he's playing he just throws John Wayne style punches and pushes a few of the stunt men around. If you're wondering if James Hong gets in on any of the action, I'm sorry to inform you that he doesn't. Instead we get a vehicle chase scene which features a rather hairy looking stunt when someone jumps from a motorcycle onto a moving car. It may seem like a simple stunt but if that had been miscalculated by even the slightest inch it could have had a fatal ending.

The Dynamite Brothers isn't a particularly good film, even when compared to other well known Blaxploitation movies of this era but it is on reflection a curious piece of the genre's history given the fact it features Hong Kong talent. If you like Grindhouse style movies and are looking for something to watch then I'd probably recommend it but don't go rushing to see it as you're not missing much.

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