Real Talk By: CMack The Don
The original Superfly starring Ron ‘O Neal debuted in 1972, when most of mainstream film audiences weren’t exactly as familiar with the aesthetics and style of stone cold pimpin’ as they may or may not be today. The movie was made on a low budget but still released by Warner Brothers pictures, and had the distinction of being one of the first widely released movies with a mostly non-white production and technical team behind it. The soundtrack by Curtis Mayfield has some truly classic 70’s hits, and the soundtrack went on to become more popular than the original film itself, earning close to the same amount of revenue the movie did at the box office.
46 years later, a lot of things about movies and America have changed, but pimpin and the art of laying down solid game and running the streets has not, and the creators of Superfly (2018) clearly understand this. Broadway and Disney Channel star (he’s come a long way, folks) Trevor Jackson, at only 21, gives a very convincing performance as Youngblood “Superfly” Priest, a fast-hustling, smooth-talking, MMA-fighting pimp looking to get out of the game with his health and riches intact, which follows the original story. “The Wire” alumni Michael K. Williams is great as always as Scatter, Priest’s martial arts master and mentor of the game, as well as solid performances from Jason Mitchell, Esai Morales, Atlanta-based rapper Big Bank Black and Outkast frontman Big Boi as mayor of Atlanta.
As you might imagine, when you’re moving bigtime weight and keeping the hustle on lock, it’s not exactly easy to just up and quit, so Superfly organizes one last big score that will leave him and his crew paid out til the sun fades out of the sky, but that’s easier said than done.
Directed by mainly hip-hop music video director Director X (AKA Julien Lutz) and written by co-writer of the Watchmen film-adaptation Alex Tse, Superfly is like its predecessor, it makes do with a relatively smaller budget (compared to other summer blockbusters), but has enough charm and hard work put into it that it gets by. The stunts and fight scenes are competent and look convincing, and you can definitely see that a hip-hip music video director created this, it has all of the style, glitz, and glamour of your favorite videos, with some decent performances and dialogue peppered in to keep it all afloat, and to keep it from being pure style and no substance.
Superfly isn’t anything deep or complicated, and if you can’t appreciate Blacksploitation or crime films, then this isn’t for you. It’s like a hip-hop fantasy with a modern-day Robin Hood from the ATL that kicks his enemies and then kicks it with his chicks. I will say that the opening scene really impressed me, and through dramatic tension alone and good dialog, we find out exactly who Superfly is and what he does, and how he’s earned his reputation. We aren’t told this, we’re shown it, with no warning or warm up, and that is top-notch filmmaking. Too many movies have scenes where someone is running down a dossier or file of the main character, talking to another character about how skilled and awesome this guy is (I’m looking at you, Seagal), without us actually seeing who the character is and how they operate. I was stunned to see that Trevor Jackson was so young when I researched this review, because he carries himself with the swagger and confidence of an experienced man, and considering he does pretty well in the fight scenes too, I would say he easily has a future in action or superhero movies if he wants it.
Superfly isn’t a life-changing, record-breaking cinematic event like Avengers: Infinity War. I saw it on the 4th of July in the middle of the week with a friend on a day where I would’ve been doing nothing else, and that’s exactly how this movie is meant to be viewed.
Superfly (2018) gets 3.5 MFs out of 5. Stay fly til you die amigos.