No Name and Dynamite is director Errol Sacks’ affectionate homage to the Spaghetti Western. Dynamite Davenport (Rich Ting) and his partner No Name (Chris Northup) are bounty hunters in the American Old West. They cross paths with Black Jack Bennett’s (Vernon Wells) crew. Violence ensues.
In due course, No Name and Dynamite encounter an actor named John Wilkes Booth, fresh from his appearance at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. Not knowing he’d just assassinated the President, they agree to protect him from those trying to bring him in and collect the reward for his capture. Also, No Name saves a gunslinger named Pearl (Natalie Burn) from an awful fate, and she, in turn, throws in with them to help fight the people hunting Booth. Once they learn who Booth is, it’s happy days for the fearsome trio, who plan to turn him in for the reward themselves. Hilarity ensues.
The plot of No Name and Dynamite is almost incidental, as the fun is in enjoying the exaggerated, extended sequences of close-ups on the faces of men about to shoot each other or blow something up. Dynamite is so named because of his love of those wonderful explosive sticks. He tends to overestimate the need for them as his weapon of choice and subsequently winds up wreaking havoc in the form of mass destruction. We are never told why No Name is never named, but he is the more steady, less impulsive partner. The Old West baddies are unreconstructed racists as well as being murderers, thieves, and rapists, and they are quick to make racial slurs about Dynamite being Chinese. As such, we don’t mind so much when he blows them up.
“…No Name and Dynamite encounter an actor named John Wilkes Booth…Not knowing he’d just assassinated the President, they agree to protect him…”
The style of No Name and Dynamite is gleefully undeniable, from the soundtrack reminiscent of Ennio Morricone, right down to a layer of synthetic scratches and graininess added to the image for authenticity. As a result, the feature looks and feels like an old movie print. The action never stops, and new characters pop up all the way through, sometimes literally popping up out of a trunk or from behind a wall, always heavily armed. Aside from being non-stop, the violence is quite bloody. Some of this feels like a Tarantino tribute, especially since a few scenes directly call back to his films.
Ting and Northup make a great buddy team, skillfully playing off one another with snappy dialogue and friendly jabs. When Pearl joins the group, it feels like the threesome with Newman, Redford, and Katherine Ross in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The actors all share strong chemistry and know exactly what kind of film this is.
No Name and Dynamite is a great example of playing to the strengths of the Indie aesthetic instead of in spite of it. The film would not be better if the budget were increased, it is perfect as is. Watching it is like indulging in an old Kung-Fu film fest on TV. Though, one minor nit to pick is that the sound is a bit uneven, making the dialogue sometimes difficult to hear in the action scenes. That is of little consequence, as we are not here for conversation.
The credits promise us more shoot-em-up adventures with No Name, Dynamite Davenport, and maybe even Pearl. Their further exploits would make for more fun Saturday-afternoon popcorn movie satisfaction. If you enjoyed The Harder They Fall, then No Name and Dynamite will thrill you too.
No Name and Dynamite is available now on DVD and on iTunes.
"…affectionate homage to the Spaghetti Western."