Outlaw Johnny Black is a nice, simple, silly, and funny comedy that has been missing on the big screen for a while. While it seems like all the recent comedies now are too deep or adult, Outlaw Johnny Black is light-hearted with plenty of action and silliness that everyone can enjoy.
Written, produced, directed by, and starring Michael Jai White, Outlaw Johnny Black is a Western parody that opens with Johnny Black (MJW) on his mission to kill Bret Clayton (Chris Browning) the man who killed Black’s father, a pastor who preached forgiveness when he finds himself arrested and thrown in jail. He escapes and is now a wanted man. He ends up passed out in the desert when Reverend Percival Fairman, played by the movie’s co-writer Byron Minns, finds him on his way to the little town of Hope Springs to meet his pen-pal love Bessie Lee (Erica Ash). After Black and Fairman are ambushed by Indians, Fairman is captured while Black takes his identity and goes to Hope Springs as the reverend. While there he learns that the town is threatened by an evil land baron, Thomas Sealy (Barry Bostwick). The town’s leader Jessie Lee (Anika Noni Rose) is on a mission to stop him. Black falls for Jessie Lee, who happens to also be Bessie Lee’s sister, and after the real Reverend Percival Fairman makes his way into town, Black is now committed to helping the townspeople love him and gets the reverend to go along with his plan. Meanwhile, Sealy has already called on Brett Clayton and his notorious gang to burn down and level Hope Springs for not turning over their land. In the end, Black who’s now a changed man, finally kills Clayton.
The beginning starts off a little slow with just a few laughs until Johnny Black meets the reverend. From there, the rest of the movie will have you laughing out loud. Bessie Lee and the real Reverend Fairman really brought out most of the laughs. While Black and Jessie Lee carried out more of the situational humor and took on the more serious roles to keep the plot moving. The exaggerated aspects of the old, original Westerns were very obvious and I thought that made it even more funny. Johnny Black, a rugged outlaw on the run gets his man in the end and falls for the sweet, kind-hearted Jessie Lee even down to the settlers versus the Indians who were played by everybody but Native Americans (Russell Peters plays the chief).
It’s been 14 years since Michael Jai White’s Black Dynamite and it’s definitely in White’s own style that we saw before but very different in content. It’s not a sequel. It doesn’t seem like a version of blaxploitation more so than a parody. It puts me in the mind of all the Black comedies that were released in the early to mid 00’s, where it’s not so deep or explicit, it’s just a funny movie. It even vaguely reminds me of The Fighting Temptations and First Sunday where there are some provocative parts but also has the spiritual aspect and a PG-13 rating. Outlaw Johnny Black also features virtually an all-Black cast with quite a few recognizable faces including Tommy Davidson, Kim Whitley, Gary Anthony Williams, Tony Baker, and Jill Scott.
The movie premiered in theaters September 15, 2023.
By McKenna Fuller