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Movie Review: 'Superfly' Nothing Unique, But Pleasant Surprise

by Todd A. Smith

 

Trevor Jackson (left) and Jason Mitchell star in the remake of “Superfly” (Photo Credit: Bob Mahoney/Sony Pictures Entertainment).

 

Pleasantly Surprised 

 


Just when a critic thought he had Hollywood figured out, the movie industry threw a curveball his way.


Movie and television remakes have become synonymous with Hollywood recently just like cocaine, bad morals and bad politics.


Many people have their theories on why Hollywood insists on making bad remakes of classics.


Some think it’s because the creative forces in Hollywood have run out of creative ideas because the current entertainment landscape consists of so many media outlets needing content that producers have run out of good original stories to tell.


Some think Hollywood keeps creating remakes of classics because remakes are cheaper to produce.


And some think it is because remakes like “Superfly” already have such a built-in cult following and rabid fan base that a remake is almost guaranteed to make a killing at the box office.


Whatever the reasoning behind the rapid release of so many remakes, Hollywood often messes up classics.


However, the remake of “Superfly” definitely does not mess up the classic Blaxploitation film from 1972.


And while the latest rendition of “Superfly” does not cover any new ground as far as gangster films are concerned, actor Trevor Jackson is talented enough to pull off the classic role of the cocaine dealer, Priest and carry the movie with other great talents like Michael Kenneth Williams (“Ghostbusters”) and Jason Mitchell (“Straight Outta Compton”).


The 2018 version of “Superfly” is the typical gangster tale.


Priest (Jackson) grows up dirt poor in Atlanta.


He begins hustling on the streets as a child and by the time he reaches adulthood, he has become a major player in the ATL by slanging cocaine and owning a few legitimate businesses as well.


Priest has to deal with rival gangs like the Snow Patrol (what a wack name for a crew), who dress in all white and drive all white vehicles.


The Snow Patrol are a direct contrast to Priest, who like Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) in “American Gangster” prefers to keep a low profile in order to stay under the radar of local law enforcement.


In “Superfly,” Priest has to deal with members of his crew like Fat Freddy (Jacob Ming-Trent) and Eddie who want bigger roles in the organization or to expand the enterprise even further, respectively.


Unlike Eddie who just enjoys getting paper from the dope game, Priest seeks an exit strategy from the dope game.


Like in many other gangster or drug lord movies, Priest wants to make one final score, big enough to set him up for life.


Priest wants a life free of crime, violence and trepidation.


His only problem is who will he have to double cross or upset to give him the opportunity to ride off into the sunset without having to look over his back for his enemies and for police officers?


Like the 2000 version of “Shaft,” the 2018 version of “Superfly” has to go into the category of pleasant surprises.


Going into the film, moviegoers will already know what to expect.


Fans of the original version of the Blaxploitation film will have high expectations because the original was so beloved in the Black community.


Fans of gangster films will have high expectations because the genre has produced some classics over recent years.


And fans of music will have huge expectations to see if Atlanta rapper Future can produce music on par with Curtis Mayfield’s classic “Superfly Soundtrack” from the early 1970s.


Filmmaker Director X was genius enough to play Mayfield’s “Pusherman” when Priest and Eddie’s operation really gets going.


However, Director X should have played another Mayfield classic after a fateful and violent scene on the late night streets of Atlanta.


And while Future will probably never measure up to the legendary Mayfield musically, the trap music star curates a soundtrack that is very 2018 and very Atlanta.


Furthermore, Director X creates visuals that are just as much hip-hop as they are cinematic.


What is Atlanta in 2018 without trap music and the stars that the rap subgenre creates?


What is Atlanta in 2018 without the extravagant gentleman’s clubs?


And what is Atlanta in any era without mention of the struggles that Black Americans face because of an oppressive system?


Director X and screenwriter Alex Tse do a good job of weaving themes of racial profiling and police corruption and police brutality into “Superfly.”


Furthermore, they make the serious subject of police brutality a little easier to digest by injecting comedy into a life-threatening situation, if that is even possible.


When a character has an encounter with a crooked cop, the police officer raps Chamillionaire’s classic song “Ridin’” while searching the character’s vehicle.


But Tse and Director X’s greatest accomplishment with “Superfly” became presenting the drug culture in a sleek way visually without glorifying the drug game.


Too many times in film and music, artists glorify a game that only leads to momentary wins and guaranteed permanent losses.


Recently, music mogul James Prince of Rap-a-Lot Records has said that transitioning from the streets to corporate America remains his biggest accomplishment during a press run promoting his memoir, “The Art and Science of Respect.”


However, Prince said that too many people think that it is easy to transition from the streets to a legitimate businessman.


People think that if a street cat has a lot of money, entering a field like the music business is easy money.


However, Prince said that it is hard to totally distance yourself from the streets, especially if a former hustler is not immediately successful financially in his new endeavors.


“Superfly” proves Prince’s view of the street life is accurate.


Legitimizing one’s self and legitimizing their portfolio is not that simple because once someone is in the street life, you cannot just leave the streets totally whenever you want to.


While the 2018 version “Superfly” is nothing special in terms of storyline, Jackson, Mitchell and Williams make up for the generic script with smooth performances.


Unfortunately, some characters and performances are not believable and/or effective.


Antwan “Big Boi” Patton of legendary rap group Outkast as Mayor Atkins is not very believable and might even get a few laughs from the audience because people are so accustomed to seeing him in other roles.


Furthermore, fellow rapper Big Bank Black did not do too good a job as Q, the flamboyant leader of the Snow Patrol.


But Jackson, Mitchell and Williams make up for any subpar performances by their cast mates.

 

Their noteworthy performances make “Superfly” a must-see movie for a trip down memory lane for fans of the Blaxploitation classic.



REGAL RATINGS

FOUR CROWNS=EXCELLENT

THREE CROWNS=GOOD

TWO CROWNS=AVERAGE

ONE CROWN=POOR


This article was published on Wednesday 13 June, 2018.
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