Where to start with “Outlaw Johnny Black”? The new genre film from the martial arts icon and director and writer Michael Jai WhiteThe Western action comedy has been touted as the spiritual successor to White’s 2009 neo-Blaxploitation comedy. “Black Dynamite.” Originally an Indiegogo-backed production, the “Appear” The actor’s Western spoof stars White as the title character, a fast, gun-toting cowboy who has dedicated his life to hunting down the man responsible for his father’s death. It is during this quest for revenge that he becomes a wanted man and, having no other choice, hides out in a small mining town where he poses as the new preacher.

In the opening moments of “Outlaw Johnny Black,” White quickly springs into action. In less than five minutes, we find ourselves before a sample of his action skills, loaded with a wink and ironic play on both the genre and his on-screen legacy. Also snappy are the bold opening credits that establish the film’s affection for the Western. However, it’s too early for things to deviate from the kind of filmmaking that made “Black Dynamite” a contemporary cult classic.

To the extent that Westerns can be broadly defined by their protagonists’ taking of lands and territories, the inclusion of indigenous communities in the genre has a less than stellar history. It’s an unpleasant surprise, then, that, just five minutes into White’s film, we’re introduced to the native characters of “Outlaw Johnny Black.” Dressed in their city best (cheap approximations of animal fur and what appear to be thin circa-2007 H&M-style scarves around their heads), it’s a bit of a shock to meet the characters, including an actor who could be described coincidentally as an Aryan, portrayed that way.

Those of us who share an affection for White as well as biting satire might, at this point, hope that “Outlaw Johnny Black” becomes the beginning of a “Blazing Saddles”-style critique of the genre, problematic as it may be. Unfortunately, this turn never comes. Bogged down by a glaring lack of self-awareness regarding his humor, White clearly approaches his films with a lot of fun, but he never stops to ask who this fun is intended for.

Several people raise their hands in shock during a robbery.

A scene from the movie “Outlaw Johnny Black.”

(Samuel Goldwyn films)

Aided by a script that doesn’t have the intelligence to convey even offensive humor with any kind of wit, “Outlaw Johnny Black” feels more like a revival of the mean-spirited humor of the 2000s that targeted certain communities and people. like punching bags, all while trying to convince us that, in the end, we were all on the same side. In fact, it’s hard to feel good about the movie’s penultimate action scene, in which almost everyone comes together to confront the movie’s villain, when it’s many of these same people who have been the butt of the movie’s joke. film, fully inflated. duration of two hours.

Between Russell Peters (a disconcerting cameo as a tribal chief) in a headdress weeping a single tear while wearing a dangerously askew braided black wig, or jarring hints of fatphobia, transmisogyny and, why not? — “Normal” misogyny, “Outlaw Johnny Black” doesn’t leave us much to root for and certainly doesn’t offer any good will. Any gag that’s even halfway successful is quickly destroyed, as the film continues to almost compulsively pursue it as the lowest hanging fruit.

Overall, “Outlaw Johnny Black” seems unsure how to navigate its Monty Python-inspired parody impulses alongside its clear reverence for the genre. Instead, White has offered a mix of well-worn tropes and stereotypes that generally don’t seem to hit the mark in terms of finding the sweet spot of being “so bad it’s good.” While his ramshackle editing can be unintentionally humorous, and the obvious dialogue almost veers into the inadvertently funny, it’s the film’s insistence on punching that makes it more of a nightmare than a fever dream.

‘Outlaw Johnny Black’

Classification: PG-13, for violence, strong language and some sexual material.

Execution time: 2 hours, 10 minutes

Playing: In limited release


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