Review: Ultra-slick 'Superfly' brings the swagger in light of weak script
Courtesy of Sony
At the start of “Superfly” I knew that something special had been tapped into (the promise of an excellent film waiting to burst out). Because as soon as Trevor Jackson pumped on screen with his slick outfit, ballin’ shoes, and swagger that screamed dangerous - it was clear this remake was heading in the right direction. Sadly, the movie never recreates that type of energy again, but watching Jackson do his thing for the rest of the movie is worth the price of admission.
Jackson is Youngblood Priest, a cocaine dealer on the streets of Atlanta. At the top of the film, he pays a visit to someone that owes him cash, and immediately lays down his authority like dust in the wind. Obviously, this isn’t a cat you want to mess with, but he’s got ambition, and during an opening narration we learn he’s been pushing dope since he was 11. “That’s the American dream right?” he asks us. He goes home to two smokin’ babes that everyone has eyes on, and when he gets into a scuffle that almost costs him everything, he decides to quit for good. “One last job, so big, we don’t have to worry about money every again.” Famous last words.
Enlisting in the help of a loyal friend (“Straight Outta Compton’s” Jason Mitchell) Priest plans to infiltrate his supplier and thus make him an offer he can’t refuse. That means going behind his mentor’s (Michael Kenneth Williams) back and dealing on his own terms. This is pure pulp cinema, much in the same vein the 1972 version was, a campy B-rated exploitation flick, that was ruthless every step of the way.
Helmed by former music video aficionado -whose dubbed here as - Director X, “Superfly” works because it’s got a hip cast that add some gravitas to a story, that hasn’t aged as well as the filmmakers would like to think. How many times have we seen double crossings, crooked cops, and drive-by massacres without any justification? Not to mention everytime we see a major character make a deal with a drug kingpin, you know, deep down, it’s the wrong choice.
Some of the stylized beatdowns are rather impressive, showing that Director X knows a thing or two about placing a camera, despite some of the latter scenes looking a bit jumbled together. It has the feel of a music video, but it also looks like a real movie. That’s the difference between a standard director, and someone that works in the music industry, they have a rhythm that grooves with the flow of the picture. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to boast a decent soundtrack, which Rapper - and Producer - Future so graciously provides for the duration of the film.
Now, there was one character that slowly got on my nerves the longer the movie went on: a guy named Juju (Kaalan Walker) who runs with the notorious “Snow Patrol” gang (the Blood’s to Priest’s Crypts) and he’s the victim of a script that forcibly introduces a antagonist without cause. For starters, he’s beef with Priest is never solid enough to make sense (it’s mainly out of jealousy) and despite his crew consistently trying to talk him down, it escalates only because the writers can’t decide what to do with him. Like a tick that won’t go away. Another scene features a three-way shower sex scene, that’s existence is also unnecessary, but something tells me certain people won’t complain about its inclusion. In addition, the film never investigates deeper into Priest's history other than two brief flashbacks.
In any case, those shortcomings never take away from the heart of Jackson’s performance, which, despite all the ethnic stereotypes seizing in the background, is saying something. This film won’t win any awards for, what some will think, is senseless mayhem. Not to mention, all the women in the film are objectified. But “Superfly” packs just the right punch, that it can stand out among all the B-movie carnage.