Year:  2018

Director:  Director X

Rated:  MA

Release:  August 9, 2018

Distributor: Sony

Running time: 116 minutes

Worth: $9.50
FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

Trevor Jackson, Jason Mitchell, Michael K. Williams, Andrea Londo, Lex Scott Davis, Big Bank Black, Jennifer Morrison

...super average...

The blaxploitation film is truly one of the strangest and most unique cultural artifacts ever to exist in the realm of cinema. Simultaneously celebrating and exploiting American black culture of the 1970s, it gave rise to such prodigious talents as Pam Grier (Coffy, Foxy Brown), Fred Williamson (Black Caesar), Richard Roundtree (Shaft) and Ron O’Neal (Superfly). The films were often made for very little money and featured in-your-face material that would, in this reactionary modern era, be considered very “problematic” indeed. But these flicks were vital and alive, crackling with instantly quotable lines and booming with fantastic soundtracks. It was probably inevitable that remakes of these classics would be attempted, but can any contemporary film capture that singular lightning-in-a-bottle vibe?

If Superfly is anything to go by? No, not really.

Superfly (2018) is the story of Youngblood Priest (Trevor Jackson), an Atlanta drug dealer who wants to leave his life of crime before he gets brutally murdered over “some trivial shit”. To do this he will have to consider betraying his friend and mentor, Scatter (Michael Kenneth Williams), risk the ire of cartel boss Adalberto Gonzalez (Esai Morales) and go up against rival gang leader, Q (Big Bank Black) and possibly fall afoul of corrupt coppers, Detective Mason (Jennifer Morrison) and Turk Franklin (Brian Durkin). He’ll also need to stay nice with his good mate, Eddie (Jason Mitchell) and two girlfriends, Cynthia (Andrea Londo) and Georgia (Lex Scott Davis).

Superfly brims with potentially exciting plot strands, colourful characters and exploitable situations, which begs the question: why isn’t it more fun? Jason Mitchell, so good as Eazy-E in Straight Outta Compton, seems to be the only actor having a good time, although Michael K. Williams is solid as usual. Trevor Jackson, however, is no Ron O’Neal. He’s certainly an attractive young man, replete with very skinny jeans and a glorious mane of hair, but lacks the gravitas, screen presence or effortless charm needed to fill such an iconic role. He, in fact, is very representative of the rest of the movie in the way he just kind of fills the screen for a while, without giving the audience much of anything.

Director X has put together an attractive but overlong flick at 116 minutes. So many disparate plot beats are shoved together, particularly in the second half, that individual elements are not given the room to land. The result is somehow plodding yet also rushed, with a handful of memorable moments in between a lot of filler.

Superfly (2018) isn’t a good blaxploitation remake, which would be forgivable in isolation, however it’s also simply not a very good movie in general. Slick, occasionally engaging and featuring an attractive cast, it’s also surprisingly inauthentic and flat. Superfly could have been so many things – brutal, offensive, shocking, hilarious, timely – but it’s ultimately none of the above and unfortunately ends up feeling super average.


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