Thursday, June 14, 2018

Superfly - Review

In a long list of remakes, a clear line of distinction can be made between those that worth it and those that obviously missed the mark. Arguably, more often than not a remake falls in the latter category, failing to capture any aspect of what made the original what it was. Superfly is already two steps behind, as translating themes from a 70s Blaxploitation film to the 21st century is nearly impossible, and yet they still tried.

Career criminal Youngblood Priest (Trevor Jackson) wants out of the Atlanta drug scene, but as he ramps up sales, one little slip up threatens to bring the whole operation down before he can make his exit.

It’s the same old tired ‘one last score’ plot thread that seems standard for any film involving criminals of some kind. But where some films can get clever with the concept, Superfly just comes off as tired and dull. And despite of having plenty of relevant social avenues to venture down, including even touching upon police brutality in one of the movie’s decent scenes, the film lacks any sense of realism. The film lives in a dream world of extravagance, swapping out the gritty streets of Harlem for the far sleeker setting of Atlanta is the first clue that the remake is going for something entirely separate from the original outside of the title. Rather than creating an aesthetic that is reminiscent of the 70s era Blaxploitation original, Superfly goes for imagery that’s ripped straight from a music video, an area Director X. is familiar with, for better or worse. 

The only real saving grace of the film, if you can even call it that, are the performances. The young actor Trevor Jackson does enough as Priest, hardly enough to leave a huge impression however. He carries the film decently enough, with a suave demeanor and certain flair about him, but being smooth certainly doesn’t make an interesting character alone. Jason Mitchell is expectedly great in his role as the somewhat capable if not a little less diligent partner of Priest. He is easily the high point of the film, though not the only good performance. With little screentime to work with, Michael K. Williams manages to bring a menacing presence during his limited role, making one wonder if his part should’ve been expanded in some way.

Unfortunately, the action follows the same style as the glossiness of the film itself. Everything is either over stylized or repetitive in the same way that, again, a music video may be. Director X. has removed any sensible reason for a remake like this to exist. Rather than pulling ideas and placing them through a modern filter, he leaves the ideas completely out, resulting in a film that’s all modern style with no substance. 

Overall, Superfly falls more in line with the pointless remakes that have come before rather than becoming anything worthwhile. A couple of good performances in support of a decent lead in Jackson are not enough to outweigh the numerous issues with the narrative, action or tone of the film. The film is likely be lost in the shuffle of the weekend anyway, but it doesn’t help that Superfly is anything but super.

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