Film review: ‘SUPERFLY’, by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

Superfly is not another Marvel Comics insect-themed superhero flick but a remake of the slightly dubious but iconic 1972 blaxploitation crime drama of the same name. It wasn’t exactly a film crying out for a remake but Director X (who is better known for hip hop and r’n’b music videos) has done just that, updating the characters to a contemporary hip-hop fuelled crime scene.

Trevor Jackson plays Atlanta coke dealer Youngblood Priest, a surprisingly thoughtful and weirdly coiffured young crim who, after almost being killed by trigger-happy enemies, wants out of the crime world. To fund his escape, he needs to make a few more massive coke deals but this puts him on the radar of ruthless rival gangs, Mexican drug cartels and murderous corrupt cops.  From this scenario, Director X fashions a reasonably solid crime drama even though it often looks like some Grand Theft Auto-addicted teens ‘gangsta’ fantasy mixed with the sort of hip-hop culture parody we would have seen on 30 Rock. There’s a lot of bling and extravagant fashion stuffed into the frame giving the film a gaudy glossy surface but little substance.

The film suffers from the fact that it’s hard to get behind a lead character who peddles coke for a living. Scarface’s Tony Montana was compelling but he was never meant to be sympathetic – Priest is meant to be the hero of the piece. Jackson gives the character a sliver of relaxed charisma but that hardly makes him likeable. The rest of the cast are an assortment of stereotypes including a ridiculous rotund ‘gangsta’ boss named Fat Freddy (Jason Ming-Trent) who wears a fluffy chinchilla coat and leads a gang known as Snow Patrol who all dress in white, shoot guns that look like Star Wars blasters and seem to be perpetually flinging dollar notes at strippers. The Wire’s Michael Kenneth Williams brings some grit to the film as small-time drug boss, martial arts expert and Priest’s mentor.

Whatever goodwill the film establishes through some energetic action sequences and winking humour is almost obliterated in its latter stages when it transforms into something resembling an 80’s video nasty like The Exterminator. Also, having been filmed on ugly, grimy digital video it’s one of the least aesthetically appealing films of recent times. Add to that a relentless score consisting of contemporary hip hop which proves mind-numbing for non-fans; it’s like a gift from God when Curtis Mayfield’s ‘Pusherman’ appears on the soundtrack.

This is tolerable but not worth throwing the Benjamin’s at like Fat Freddy at a strip club.

Nick’s rating: **1/2

Genre: Crime drama.

Classification: MA15+.

Director(s): Director X.

Release date: 9th Aug 2018.

Running time: 116 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.

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