Black Dynamite is the definitive blaxploitation parody: not only is it funny from start to finish but it actually manages to channel the genre it is sending up by taking on its stylistic quirks with sincere love rather than just treating them as fetish objects to be goofed on in a hipper-than-thou manner. This unique aspect of Black Dynamite, perhaps the secret to its success, can be seen on full display in its original coming attraction. It’s a fantastic trailer because not only does it sell the main attraction, it does so in a credible retro manner than perfectly emulates the blaxploitation trailers of the ’70s.
Within the first five seconds, the Black Dynamite trailer lets you know it is steeped in all the signifiers of blaxploitation cinema: as orchestral yet syncopated horns set the tone on the soundtrack, you see a barrage of pimp suits, afros, a funk band, a Mr. Big-style white villain, a samurai sword that hints at the kung fu often seen in blaxploitation films and plentiful use of the zoom lens. If that isn’t badass enough for you, the filmmakers show off their peak level of blaxploitation expertise by having Rudy Ray Moore narrate the trailer in rhyming style, much like he did for his beloved Dolemite trailer.
From there, you get a full thirty seconds devoted to selling the bonafides of the title character. Michael Jai White is the greatest asset of Black Dynamite because he’s the full package: he’s got great comedic instincts, is a fantastic martial artist and channels the vibe of blaxploitation heroes of yesteryear (he really nails the so-deadpan-you-should-check-his-pulse line delivery of Jim Brown). The narration sells him as a wealthy, seductive man of action while the narration subtly pokes fun at how it cost less to act flashy in the ’70s (“drives a $5000 car and wears $100 suits”).
The next section of the trailer goes into classic exposition mode for thirty seconds. The filmmakers show their genre smarts by piling on all the familiar plot hooks: the drug hustle in the streets getting violent, the C.I.A. wanting to co-opt our hero by using him as a way into the ghetto, and the murder of a beloved family member that prompts a vow of revenge. It’s all done with sly humor, like when the narration says what the C.I.A. wants and then the head C.I.A. agent onscreen repeats the narrator’s words verbatim. Also worth noting is a brief appearance by Arsenio Jones, made over with wig and makeup to make a convincing player talking about the trouble on the streets.
The next forty seconds goes into pure exploitation movie salesmanship by delivering a barrage of action as the hero goes into work against his many foes. The filmmakers nail the cheap yet viscerally exciting vibe of the films being sent up by mixing kung-fu, slow motion and the occasional dash of stock footage into a crazy quilt of gonzo action. There’s a lot here that is reminiscent of Black Samurai, including cheap, harshly-lit apartments used as the backdrop for hastily-staged stunts and fights. In a move that shows the filmmakers did their homework, there’s even a side-splitting bit with a car that explodes as it’s going off a cliff rather than waiting for impact to detonate.
All that’s left is a rundown of the film’s main players and closing titles – and the trailer for Black Dynamite never breaks character as it assigns fictional names to its real players. For example, White is credited as “all-star running back Ferrante Jones” and, in an amusing touch, Kevin Harrison’s work as the film’s C.I.A. agent is credited to “Ronnie Sinatra.” There’s even a little bit before the final utterance of the film’s title that claims it was filmed in a process called “Cinemaphonic Quadrovision!”
Simply put, the trailer for Black Dynamite is the ideal accompaniment to its main attraction. It sells all the colorful fun in the film with skill but also takes the film’s closely-observed satire game to the next level by creating the perfect vintage-styled satire of an old blaxploitation trailer. It is pure conceptual continuity in action and just deepens one’s appreciation for the knowledge, love and sly wit that went into the main attraction.
To read Schlockmania’s film review of Black Dynamite, click here.