Priest (Ron O’Neal), a suave top-rung New York City drug dealer, decides that he wants to get out of his dangerous trade. Working with his reluctant friend, Eddie (Carl Lee), Priest devises a scheme that will allow him make a big deal and then retire. When a desperate street dealer informs the police of Priest’s activities, Priest is forced into an uncomfortable arrangement with corrupt narcotics officers. Setting his plan in motion, he aims to both leave the business and stick it to the man.
Directed by Gordon Parks Jr (yes, the son of the Shaft director), this is the best of the Blaxploitation movies, and the punchy Curtis Mayfield score underlines the point – though (Black) protestors picketed the movie when it came out for glorifying the drug business.
Supported by Curtis Mayfield’s irrresistible score, this memorable action-drama stars Ron O’Neal as Youngblood Priest, a cocaine dealer who realizes the life is no longer for him and sets out to score one last deal that will net him enough cash to start over. An all-too-familiar plot, it’s no shock that Priest’s transition won’t be easy. A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do to save his soul and come out of the mayhem alive. Nevertheless, this was one of the era’s most enduring films. Thanks to O’Neal’s dynamic performance, Gordon Parks, Jr.’s direction and Mayfield’s score, Super Fly succesfully blends entertainment with a lasting message. Like Shaft, it was an early entry in the subgenre before the films largely devolved into lowbrow and low-budget B-movie hokum.
Tambay Obenson, Indiewire
Curtis Mayfield’s near-perfect score proceeds with a grace that simultaneously reflects the grit and grime of street life and soars above it… Mayfield’s lyrics articulate the hopes, dreams, anguish, pain, and contradictions of the title character… A veteran stage actor, Ron O’Neal invests his soulful dope dealer with a regal bearing and a seriousness befitting Shakespeare: Super Fly is in many ways classic pulp, but O’Neal and Mayfield push it toward a sort of epic grandeur.
Nathan Rabin, AV Club
The film’s gut pleasures are real, and there are a lot of them.
Roger Greenspun, New York Times (1972)