‘Outlaw Johnny Black’ Review: Vengeance Is on His Mind

by The Technical Blogs


A gravel-toned gunslinger rolls into town. He’s got a bullet with his nemesis’s name on it and vengeance on his mind. It’s a familiar image that “Outlaw Johnny Black,” directed by Michael Jai White, intends to spoof, but the punchlines don’t quite land properly in this misguided Western parody.

This is the second movie that White has written with Byron Minns; the first was “Black Dynamite,” the 2009 Blaxploitation spoof that White also starred in. But whereas the latter understood the specific visual language and tricky tone of its genre satire, “Outlaw Johnny Black” struggles to establish a consistent comedic rhythm.

Much of the flaws come from its bagginess and lack of expositional focus (plus several needlessly cringe-worthy scenes involving Native American characters). The first third of the film — which concerns the relationship between the titular Johnny Black (White) and Brett Clayton (Chris Browning), the man who killed his father — becomes practically irrelevant after Johnny winds up in a small town impersonating a preacher and enmeshed in political schemes over oil-rich land.

There are some funny moments in this stretch, particularly when the actors are allowed to run with some of the purely inane gags. But the laughs are lost within an overly long, meandering plot and scenes that miss visual polish or comedic concision. The gunslinger can land a punch, but the film doesn’t pack any.

Outlaw Johnny Black
Rated PG-13 for violence, strong language and some sexual material. Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes. In theaters.


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