Director X – better known for making music videos than feature films – debuts on the silver screen with this remake of the blaxploitation classic, a popular move in Hollywood at the moment. He certainly brings a brash hip-hop elegance to it – money rains down more frequently than water in an Atlanta soaked in sun and blood.
We follow hustler Youngblood Priest (Trevor Jackson) as he chases one last score (he literally says those words – one of several times that cliché undermines an otherwise entertaining romp). Priest is a smooth, fast-talking yet quietly spoken and principled operator who is just as likely to rely on information as his black-belt for defence. Along with his partner, Eddie (Jason Mitchell), and girlfriends, Georgia (Lex Scott Davis) and Cynthia (Andrea Londo), he tries to escape the life he’s lived since he was 11. But it’s never quite as easy as that…
Antagonists range from bent cops, and cartels with a penchant for human-liquefaction, to rival gang Snow Patrol (no, wait, it actually gets more ridiculous), whose every possession is white – their guns, houses and cars (and, yes, there is a car chase). As a relatively self-contained street-hustle film Superfly is really quite successful, but as it spirals towards its conclusion, it does all start to become a bit silly.
The central performance from an understated Trevor Jackson is excellent, as indeed are most of the main cast’s showings. Despite outstanding performances from the female actors in the movie though, especially Lex Scott Davis, their characters are empowered only so far as their sexuality will take them. This is a fact simply accepted by the film without exploration beyond an exasperated sigh from Davis as she is forced by Priest to “stay close” to the handsy Mayor in case of a “rainy day”.
In making Priest an intelligent character reliant on information more than violence, intent only on escape from a life of crime and desperate to protect those around him, Superfly goes some way to avoiding the stereotypical portrayals of black life in the original movie. Where women are concerned, however, there is still work to do.
Overall, Superfly is super… fine. A twisting ride with enough sheen to be very watchable for almost all of its two hours. It’s silly, yes, but at least there’s always something going on.
Superfly is released nationwide on 14th September 2018.
Watch the trailer for Superfly here: