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Super Fly is a cocaine dealer who begins to realize that his life will soon end with either prison or his death. He decides to build an escape from the life by making his biggest deal yet, converting the coke to cash and running off to start a new life. The problem is that the Mob does not have a retirement plan and will give him a choice of staying and selling for them or dying if they find out his intentions. Written by
John Vogel <jvogel@dgs. dgsys.com>
Seventies classic that only happens to be blaxploitation
Ron Earl is the Priest, independent Harlem coke dealer who is out for the big deal, one last push before he's out of there and out of the street. He also happens to be the protagonist and the one character we're called to empathize with and if that pose a problem for some, it's a directorial choice I applaud even only for its disregard of PC norm. In a genre populated for the most part by cops, private dicks and other manifestations of the law, having a drug dealer kicking ass and not in the name of some higher value, without him renouncing his past or seeing the error of his ways and becoming goodie two-shoes in a last minute, flimsy attempt to redeem the movie in the eyes of moral censors, without being heavy-handed or trashy is certainly admirable. Those that enjoy taking the moral high ground against the movie they're watching will find plenty of ground here to do so. I don't. I might oppose a movie on a political level but only when it tries to make a political statement out of it and Superfly sure as hell doesn't, at least not beyond what genre conventions might dictate (i.e. whitey is bad). The Priest however renounces the hypocrisy of "Black Nation" scumballs going around asking him for money just as much as he rails against the "redneck faggot" captain who doubletimes as the local drug lord.
So if Super Fly is so good, it's because The Priest's desire comes across so transparent, strong and clear. Get off the street. A home, a vine, his woman, that's all he wants out of life now, despite (or perhaps because of) him being a societal leech feeding off people's addiction. Dealing drugs is just a job for him, a means to an end. His partner Eddie rambles on at one point early in the movie about how "it's all whitey left them to do" on which I call shenanigans; that way of thinking is never further expounded upon in relation to the Priest's goal and Eddie in the end proves himself to be a backstabbing, greedy son of a bitch. I think the best way to sketch out The Priest's character is by using Lee Marvin's words when he was asked what it felt like to have played so many bad guys in his life: "My characters weren't bad. They were just trying to get through the day". That's pretty much the wavelength Super Fly channels its protagonist through. Neither condemnation, nor approval, it's just the way it is.
Super Fly is so damn good however, not just because its drug dealer protagonist comes across as genuine and sympathetic, but more so because it never allows itself to be drawn to the sillier end of blaxploitation. No 'mack daddy' sleazy pimpin' fabulousness here, the movie is constantly rooted in reality, taking itself serious before asking the viewer to do the same, but also groovy and funky as only blaxploitation flicks can be. A big part of that distinct seventies charm is due to Curtis Mayfield's stupendous score, playing over most of the film, but also the seedy back-alleys and rundown neighborhoods of then contemporary Harlem, the grime almost reaching across the screen.
Grade A blaxpoitation then, but also a smokin' hot crime flick with characterization that is better than most, good pace, all-around good acting, booty-shaking' music, afros and a few punches thrown in for good measure, Super Fly is among the best of its kind. Strongly recommended.
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