Combustible Celluloid
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With: Trevor Jackson, Jason Mitchell, Michael Kenneth Williams, Lex Scott Davis, Jennifer Morrison, Jacob Ming-Trent, Andrea Londo, Omar Chaparro, Terayle Hill, Allen Maldonado, Al-Jaleel Knox, Rick Ross, Big Boi, Lecrae
Written by: Alex Tse, based on a screenplay by Phillip Fenty
Directed by: Director X
MPAA Rating: R for violence and language throughout, strong sexuality, nudity, and drug content
Running Time: 108
Date: 06/15/2018

Superfly (2018)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

'Fly' Cleaning

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This remake of the 1972 blaxploitation classic is smoother and more velvety, with a cool, subdued lead character and lean, strong scenes, but it's also frequently silly and eventually goes on too long.

In Superfly, Youngblood Priest (Trevor Jackson) is a clever drug dealer whose street wisdom has kept his profile low and kept him out of jail. Outside a club one night, a member of another crew called "Snow Patrol," drunk, takes a shot at Priest, misses, and hits an innocent bystander. Priest's longtime partner Eddie (Jason Mitchell), unbeknownst to Priest, orders a hit on Snow Patrol, which stirs up trouble.

Priest decides that he needs to up his game, sell a great deal of cocaine, make a ton of money, and get out of town with his two girlfriends, Georgia (Lex Scott Davis) and Cynthia (Andrea Londo). He asks his supplier, his former mentor Scatter (Michael Kenneth Williams), for more product, but Scatter refuses. So Priest goes up the chain of command and speaks to the dangerous drug lord Gonzales (Esai Morales). Unfortunately, Priest then finds himself locked into "the game" for life... unless he sets into play one final, desperate plan.

Director X (born Julien Christian Lutz) and screenwriter Alex Tse keep many of the character outlines from the original movie, but the story is now set in Atlanta rather than New York. Some of it feels updated with up-to-the-minute with #BlackLivesMatter themes, such as when characters must deal with a demonic, blonde, blue-eyed cop. But other parts feel stuck in time, perhaps owing more to Brian De Palma's Scarface (1983) than to Gordon Parks Jr.'s Super Fly.

The gorgeous costumes and hairstyles, as well as cars and clubs and cribs, are given emphasis, along with the thumping music (which borrows two cuts from Curtis Mayfield's original, classic 1972 soundtrack). The use of cocaine as the product of choice makes it feel more movie-ish than realistic, like it's a lost "B" movie from the 1980s that only turned up today.

As the plot goes on, Director X admirably focuses on consequences of actions, but this also has the effect of slowing things down and making them feel too serious. The pacing begins to drag, and by the movie's tidy ending, this Superfly no longer flies.

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