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Review

Superfly

By DAN LYBARGER Special to the Democrat-Gazette

This article was published June 15, 2018 at 1:48 a.m.

youngblood-priest-trevor-jackson-is-trying-to-get-over-and-maintain-his-architectural-hairstyle-in-director-xs-sort-of-remake-of-a-blaxploitation-classic-superfly

Youngblood Priest (Trevor Jackson) is trying to get over and maintain his architectural hairstyle in Director X’s sort-of remake of a blaxploitation classic, Superfly.

SuperFly

73 Cast: Trevor Jackson, Jason Mitchell, Esai Morales, Lex Scott Davis, Andrea Londo, Antwan ‘Big Boi’ Patton, Jennifer Morrison, Michael Kenneth Williams, Jacob Ming-Trent

Director: Director X

Rating: R, for violence and language throughout, strong sexuality, nudity, and drug content

Running time: 1 hour, 48 minutes

Eddie (Jason Mitchell, in fur jacket) is the right-hand man to a rich drug pusher in Superfly, a sex and violence-heavy remake of Gordon Parks Jr.’s b...

Director X's Superfly is supposedly a remake of the 1972 Blaxploitation hit Super Fly, but frequently seems to be more like the work of one of its producers, Joel Silver (the Lethal Weapon movies, Roadhouse, The Matrix, Swordfish, et, al.), who, in the '80s and '90s provided moviegoers a steady supply of explosions, gunplay and female nudity.

Silver's fingerprints are all over this movie, and his touch isn't always compatible with the roots of the original story. The previous movie made up for a thin, somewhat predictable plot with its gritty atmosphere (courtesy of director Gordon Parks Jr.) and a silky soundtrack from Curtis Mayfield. Director X (aka Julien Christian Lutz), who cut his teeth on music videos, and screenwriter Alex Tse (Watchmen) follow Phillip Fenty's storyline but move it to contemporary Atlanta.

Whereas Parks' New York was rundown and gloomy, every shot of Director X's Georgia is polished, shiny and well-lit. The filmmaker cut his teeth on music videos, and it really shows here. Whereas Parks' star Ron O'Neal appeared to be selling cocaine to get by in a hostile world, when Youngblood Priest (Trevor Jackson) manages dealers in the Peach State, even abandoned homes look like candidates for the pages of Architectural Digest.

In the new film, the struggle is not to stay alive but to maintain the ability to drive a Lexus or a Mercedes. Both movies are loaded with macho posturing, but the new entry gets downright cartoonish. Priest's chief rivals are the Snow Patrol, who wander around scorching hot Atlanta in all-white mountaineering gear that makes the uniforms the Stormtroopers wear in Star Wars seem unimaginatively realistic.

In the new film, Priest has obviously succeeded, and he achieved the unique feat of avoiding the attention of Atlanta's Finest despite the fact that his carefully sculpted hairdo is nearly the size of the rest of his head. Neither he nor the Snow Patrol know how to blend.

Even in Atlanta's ritziest neighborhoods, illegal merchandise leads people to shoot each other. Priest decides it's time to make one last round of sales so that he can retire. In the previous movie, this worn out trope was vaguely credible. O'Neil was 34 and projected a nice combination of gravitas and weariness. He could leap over chain link fences, but age and a brutal market would eventually catch up with him.

Jackson, on the other hand, is 21. He's a capable performer, but he comes off more petulant than brooding. At times, he doesn't have the decency to enjoy being rich and powerful.

His Priest also seems bummed out to be making love in the shower with his girlfriend, Georgia (Lex Scott Davis), and an associate named Cynthia (Andrea Londo). As any connoisseur of Silver's previous work knows, he finds ways for his characters to have breaks for intimacy (Halle Berry flings off a newspaper in Swordfish to reveal what she isn't wearing), but this make-out session is more unintentionally hilarious than romantic or even arousing.

The scene also makes Georgia and Priest's declarations of love before and after seem obligatory, as if they were written in the contract instead of the script.

Director X shoehorns in some of Mayfield's catchy classics, but they don't fit all that well with the hip-hop score by Future. Thankfully, he and Silver meet their quota of pyrotechnics and property destruction. They even find a way to deal with disputes over Confederate monuments.

Nonetheless, the new film takes an interesting '70s curio and proves that it doesn't fit our age all that well. Perhaps Director X would have made a more entertaining movie about how Jackson can get his hair to ridicule the rules of physics.

MovieStyle on 06/15/2018

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