First, there is Priest's desire to leave behind his life of crime in drug dealing. He realises it is self-defeating and is reducing his own sense of self-worth. He yearns for a life of normality, where he can live a straightforward life of relative ease with his partner. In essence, he wants out of the struggle of the ghetto. A perfectly reasonable desire, and one shared, I would imagine by many of the people living in the ghettos and slums of the large industrialised cities of the Northern United States.
Second, the film reflects the pressure by society, or 'The Man', to slip into this lifestyle. In a key conversation with his partner (in crime), Priest is told that it makes no sense to struggle to leave the lifestyle he was in, since it represented the only opportunities that were available to the young black community at that time (perhaps still). Priest rejects this assessment. The film also underlines the sense of distrust and suspicion that the community held against it's law-makers (rightly as it turned out).
Third, the film demonstrates the increasing impotence of those truly revolutionary impulses within the community. In a conversation with a group of militants, who are chastising him for his lifestyle, Priest turns the tables accusing them of being unrealistic and away from the reality of the people in the ghetto. Essentially they were all talk and no action.
Overall, the film reflects these moral ambiguities and the complexities of life at the time. It is not a perfect film. It is clumsy structurally and the acting is not first rate. But it is honest, and thought provoking, if you wish it to be. This is a quality that is generally lacking in it's contemporaries. Shaft is slicker, looks better and has a bigger budget. Coffy and Foxy Brown have more accessible plots (in their simplicity) and more eye-candy. But Superfly asks the questions that the others veered away from. And that is to be commended in any film.
By the way, the soundtrack is first rate too.
Trivia Note: many of the supporting cast were real dealers and pimps from the streets where the film was shot.
The plot is simple, Priest (Ron O'Neal) is sick of his lifestyle and the ghetto, realising... Read more
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