Youngblood Priest is back and ready to make his mark on the world in Superfly. Directed by Director X, the remake of the 1972 classic blaxploitation film follows Priest, a successful cocaine dealer, as he navigates the streets and penthouses of Atlanta to earn one final, massive payday before leaving the industry for good.
Set in Atlanta, instead of Harlem like the original, Superfly is a fun, entertaining summer movie that doesn’t shy away from making important statements about the status of Black America. Chop full of humorous scenes where Priest and Eddie smoke blunts and plan their future, the movie also touches on important issues like police corruption and narcissism. While the story may include depressing topics, it is constantly enjoyable and retains a break-neck pace that keeps the plot moving forward. In many ways, Atlanta, a city defined by both exorbitant wealth and desperate poverty, is the perfect setting for this updated take on Superfly. In the ’70s, Harlem was the zenith for black culture in the United States, with big artists like Sammy Davis Jr. and Ben E. King emerging from the city. But today, Atlanta has taken the crown and figures like Future and The Migos dominate the charts and become pop-culture icons.
Trevor Jackson, who is best known for his work on grown-ish, does a great job bringing the suave character to life. In a world full of characters flaunting their wealth, Priest is an incredibly laid-back individual who prefers observing rather than making a scene. Even though the character is somewhat larger than life and goofy, especially whenever he runs his hand through his quaffed hair, Jackson turns in a subdued, muted performance that makes his character seem equally empathetic and intimidating. While Priest may be the protagonist, every key player in the ensemble is given a moment to shine. Straight Outta Compton and Mudbound’s Jason Mitchell turns in another solid performance as Eddie, Priest’s best friend and partner-in-crime. Jackson and Mitchell have great chemistry and Superfly is at its best whenever their characters are cracking jokes and figuring out their next moves together. Lex Scott Davis, who plays Priest’s primary love interest, turns in a powerful performance as Georgia. In the original film, like many movies from the ’70s, women typically were objectified and not given much to do. The modern take, on the other hand, makes Georgia a key player as she helps Priest game the city’s political system for future favors. He may have a relatively small role in the movie, but Big Boi, one half of the group Outkast that first put ATL on the map for hip-hop, turns in an entertaining, sleazy performance as the city’s corrupt mayor.
Instead of feeling convoluted or over-burdened by unnecessary plot points, Superfly has a lean, entertaining story. After witnessing an innocent girl being murdered outside of a club, Priest wants to earn one final score and walk away from the drug-dealing business forever. To make this a possibility, he has to put his massive crew to work and figure out a way to increase his supply all while dealing with a rival gang who wants to take him down. Everything Priest and the people around him do makes sense from a motivational stand point, which makes the film both compelling and easy to follow. The characters serve the story and push the plot forward instead of doing random things that serve no larger purpose.
Director X, who has a background in music videos and commercials, makes small, visual details a key part of the storytelling. Everything from the color of people’s clothes to the cars they drive tells the audience something about each character and the world they live in. Instead of relying on stereotypical gang colors like red and black, X dresses the rival dealers, aptly nick-named the Snow Patrol, in all white. The color coordination doesn’t end there though, as everyone in Snow Patrol drives a white car and even uses a white gun to make sure the audience always knows where their allegiances lie. At one point, a character in Priet’s gang even temporarily joins up with Snow Patrol, and he dons all white to show-off his new allegiance.
Superfly’s marketing may emphasize the movie’s swagger and style, but it also has a few exciting action sequences. Priest is trained in martial arts, but he’d rather use his words than his fists to settle problems. Whenever Priest is forced to fight, Jackson does a great job at making his character seem comfortable and in charge of the situation, even during intense moments. What makes the action scenes stand out is the fact that each sequence has personal stakes and emotional consequences for everyone involved. Each fight is presented as an opportunity to learn something new about a character or how they view their position in the world, andthey’re not just shoved in to make things more exciting. Director X may be used to elaborate set pieces thanks to his work on music videos for Drake and Rihanna, but it’s clear that he’s not fully comfortable shooting fight scenes yet. While they are exciting overall, the sequences are full of cuts that result in some of the fight scenes feeling cheap and over produced.
It’s hard to top Curtis Mayfield’s soundtrack for the original film, but Future does a good job modernizing Superfly’s soundscape. Two of Mayfield’s songs, Pusherman and Superfly, appear in the movie, but otherwise the film is enriched by the trap and hip-hop tracks that interweave throughout the movie. After the success of Black Panther’s soundtrack, spearheaded by Kendrick Lamar, I expect this album to make an equally large splash on the charts. Loaded with everyone from Young Thug to Lil Wayne, the soundtrack drips energy and does a good job pulling the audience deeper into the world.
Even though the remake updated a few things and moved cities, Superfly is clearly a love-letter to the original film. Everyone’s favorite characters are back, but they have evolved to fit this updated take on the franchise. The original Superfly had two sequels, and producer Joel Silver, who’s tackled everything from The Matrix to Transformers, is a big fan of sequels, so if this movie does well enough I expect audiences will be seeing more of Superfly very soon.
Final Score: 7/10
10 Marvel & DC Villains Who Can Take Down Thanos
Thanos may have just taken down some of Marvel’s finest superheroes in Avengers: Infinity War, but he’s not the deadliest villain in comics. Both DC and Marvel are full of characters who are more powerful than the Mad Titan.
Admittedly, whenever Thanos is in possession of all six infinity stones he is the most powerful being in the universe, but anyone can harness that power if they successfully gather all the necessary components. If anything, Thanos is just incredibly patient and willing to wait to achieve his goals, a trait not many supervillains in DC or Marvel have. With the gauntlet, Thanos is essentially an immortal God who can snap his fingers and turn entire worlds to dust, but without it he’s just another villain who wants to rule the universe. He’s clearly a strong and terrifying guy, but if he were to face any of these villains without his Gauntlet, Thanos would be in big trouble.
Hit Next to learn more about 10 DC and Marvel supervillains who can take down Thanos!