I’ll say this about X’s blaxploitation update-It’s a solid action film with a concise point of view. Baffled by some critics bashing it as a long music video. Would they say the same thing about any of the stylized Ocean films? SuperFly has its flaws but it’s entertaining as hell.
Blaxploitation films were born out of a time where African-American characters were written and portrayed as sidekicks, victims of violent brutality, or murderous villains. While many point out that these subgenre films in the 1970’s often contained stereotypical roles, they served a purpose by finally depicted black characters as heroes within their communities. Sweetback, Shaft or Foxy Brown won’t be saved by any white knight.
In Superfly, a remake of the 1970’s trailblazer, we meet a drug kingpin, Youngblood Priest (played by Blackish and Grownish actor Trevor Jackson), who uses his smarts and a little kung-fu to get himself out of tough situations. Priest is always serious, always keeping his head in the game, always working an angle. He doesn’t let personal situations cloud his judgment. When he meets some friends for a drink at a strip club, he runs into Juju (Kaalan Walker), a member of the street gang the Snow Patrol. Juju is reactionary, acts before he thinks, the exact opposite of Priest. This leads to a confrontation where Priest escapes almost certain death. He calculates the odds and decides he wants to get out while he still can. We then soon meet his mentor (the always welcome Michael K. Williams), his best friend Eddie (Straight Outta Compton’s Jason Mitchell), two of his female friends that all appear to be in a polyamorous relationship together (Andrea London and Lex Scott Daniels), a dirty cop (Jennifer Morrison) and a Mexican drug cartel head (Esai Morales) who Priest is using for one last big score before he calls it a career.
The film does lag at times. The script’s plot points tend to ask the viewer to take a leap of faith, and while Jackson brings real presence to the role he has room to grow as an actor. You’ll forgive most of these flaws, however, when you give yourself over to just simply be entertained for a couple hours. Superfly might be a standard crime story from a plot standpoint, but it stands out as a super-stylized action picture.
The real head-scratcher here is why so many critics are pegging this film as an almost 2-hour music video. Sure, there are scenes with music, artificial action and the director’s history is in that medium. Most of that can be said about Ocean’s 8, so why are these same critics not holding Ocean’s to the same lazy critical standard? Director X brings a unique look to his blaxploitation update that is sexy and has crazy energy.
Superfly, while flawed, has a concise point of view and is entertaining as hell.