By: Alli Messick
Super Fly is a story of a common drug dealer in New York City that wants out and will do one of his riskiest, if not the riskiest, jobs of his career to do it. Ron O’Neal, making this performance his outbreak role, will mark him as a blaxploitation actor only. Despite the specificity of this, he has his Broadway career to back him up if nothing else.
This film is obviously made on a low budget and falls under the category of blaxploitation, but it does not necessarily insult the black population or any other non-white race. Yes, it shows black and Hispanic men making a living by dealing drugs, but it also has strong white male dirty cop characters that make the storyline what it is.
The director and writer, Gordon Parks, Jr. and Phillip Fenty, respectively, put on a great film that shows human flaws and skewed morals in any race. The blaxploitation genre can be taken and portrayed in different ways. One, it can show only non-white people making poor life decisions and feeling no remorse all the while including some comic relief; two, it can show many people’s flaws, white and non-white combined, and somewhat take away stereotypes while allowing for African Americans to be in Hollywood.
Music sets the tone in film, and the disco, seventies vibe sparked the right feelings and emotions for Super Fly. It provided the fast-paced, hype tone when someone was on the run or a risky deal was being made, and it was calm and smooth when there was lull or sex scene in the movie.
As previously mentioned, Ron O’Neal does outstandingly with the approach to Priest. The irony in his name is obvious because a priest is not a drug dealer (a good one at least), and a drug dealer probably was never too interested in the religious life. It should also be noted of the irony that he snorts his cocaine from the tip of his cross necklace.
Despite the liking for O’Neal’s performance, his counterparts did not act up to par. Carl Lee was the second-most filmed actor in this production, and his emotions in the dialogue stopped at the words. It is noticeable that he tries to feel and play what his character should be feeling, but he does not get it. Sheila Frazier has a commendable performance, but her lack of screen time does not allow her character to be fully assessed. Julius Harris has an important role in the film, and plays it well, but it does not leave the audience with a “wow” feeling toward his acting capabilities.
This film makes a great statement on the blaxploitation realm of Hollywood. It allows the audiences to see the possibly realistic life of black drug dealers in the seventies. Overall, this film is well made with what money it was given to make, and is a good watch for anyone looking for action and adventure.