Whether it’s a reboot or a remake, ‘SuperFly’ is an overall fun but flawed entry into the Neo-Blaxploitation genre.
Taking place in present day Atlanta, ‘SuperFly’ is all about excess. The parties are over the top, with champagne flowing and bodies gyrating. The cocaine comes in massive bricks, not teeny vials. And the gangs all wear coordinating outfits. Visually, the film has no subtleties and its satirical enhancement of the world saturates every character and every set.
Our main guy is Youngblood Priest (Trevor Jackson). He’s the head of a small group of cocaine dealers, and he prides himself on somehow dressing sharp yet laying low. He has never been caught by the cops and intends to keep it that way. When a chance encounter with a short-tempered member of a rival gang (Kaalan Walker) goes very bad very fast, Priest makes up his mind to get out of the game. But how shall he pay his bills and support his two girlfriends? Might as well up the quantity of cocaine he’s moving and create his very own accelerated retirement plan.
In order to make this plan happen, he’s going to make an enemy. He chooses to go above the head of his supplier (Michael Kenneth Williams) straight to the Mexican drug boss (Esai Morales). Naturally, there are some issues with his drug trafficking hierarchical faux pas, which then get compounded by the rival gang, and Priest’s own personal business proclivities.
Priest is a man of many catchphrases and skinny jeans. He believes in knowledge and keeping his head down. He loves women and they love him. Priest is a character much bigger than life and makes ‘SuperFly’ feel like a fantasy and not reality.
And why not have a little escapism in cinema? The club scenes are lush, and dollar bills rain like a torrential downpour on a sea of strippers. Priest has not one, but two girlfriends who are eager to join him in his steamy shower and let off a little stress.
If you’re detecting a pattern in the deplorable treatment of women in ‘SuperFly’, you would be correct. The women are mostly faceless strippers, with the occasional political pawn or angry girlfriend for variety. The men, outside of Priest, are mostly painted as despicable humans too, but at least they get character names, motivation, and clothing.
Perhaps the biggest sin in ‘SuperFly’ is the big car chase near the end of the film. In broad daylight, through winding streets, with Priest in a Lamborghini, this chase should have been the action pinnacle of the movie. But the low angle car close-ups, along with lethargic editing, make this entire sequence confounding. We’re so accustomed to seeing excellent car chases in movies these days that I’d actually forgotten it’s possible to shoot one poorly. This reminder was not needed.
A worthy update to a film more contemporarily known for its soundtrack, ‘SuperFly’ is fun and fluffy, just like Priest’s impressive coif. If you’re willing to overlook the glaring sexism and exploitation, it’s a fun and mostly polished flick.
I am very surprised somebody thought to remake this. I’ll give them credit for shifting the setting to Atlanta. Trying to make it work in contemporary New York would’ve been a stretch.
I don’t know if this will get a theatrical release near me, but I’ll definitely check it out.
And for those of you who are interested, the original gets a blu ray release in a few weeks from Warner’s Archive.