Eddie Murphy has had a return to form, starring in and producing his passion picture, Dolemite Is My Name about the life of Rudy Ray Moore. The star-studded cast, directed by Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow) also features Wesley Snipes, Keegan-Michael Key, Craig Robinson, Mike Epps, Tituss Burgess, and Da’Vine Joy Randolph, in addition to a few famous cameos.
Dolemite as a character, and Rudy Ray Moore as a person, are one of those cult things. Those who know about him really know, but not everybody does. He was one of the standouts of blacksploitation films in the 70s, and those films and his comedy albums have influenced generations of entertainers. Dolemite is a pimp who fought corruption with kung-fu, zingers, and flair. The film and sequels are silly and light-hearted and feature a stable of ass-kicking ladies, car chases, and of course James Bond-style getting down to business.
“Eddie Murphy has return to form…about the life of Rudy Ray Moore.”
Moore was trying to get black entertainment made in an era when white people who didn’t understand it controlled all the means of production and distribution. He didn’t even know what was involved in making a movie, much less have friends who could help him do it. He hustled his ass off to get it done, borrowing money, hiring an actor to direct just because he’d been on movie sets, and hiring film students to run the sound and cameras. Then even convincing people to distribute the movie wasn’t easy. At every step, throughout his life, Rudy Ray Moore just refused to quit, believed in himself, and through sheer force of will created something with a lasting effect on the culture.
Of course, this is the Hollywood version of the story, with the rough edges rounded off, where things happen in the biopic-ordained order of dramatic progression (they even blend the original Dolemite and the sequel The Human Tornado together), and where the movie stops just after the climax. While the 70s are front and center, the filmmakers give just a hint this was a different time culturally, by showing movie casting in a strip club. This version of Rudy Ray Moore is a highly stylized version, more like a hybrid between him and Eddie Murphy, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing if entertainment, not slavish devotion to reality, is the objective.