SUPERFLY review by Rahul Vedantam – a 1972 Blaxploitation classic is updated with mixed results

SUPERFLY review by Rahul Vedantam – a 1972 Blaxploitation classic is updated with mixed results

If you didn’t know the new movie SUPERFLY was a remake of a classic Blaxploitation film, you sure could figure it out through watching. Enough of the plot remains similar to the original 1972 hit for Blaxploitation to be in the bones of the movie, but sadly self-stylized Director X (Julien Christian Lutz) doesn’t bring in the 2018 updates to make the genre feel worth reviving. Only his second feature film – despite a titanic catalog of music videos – he instead brings in amateurish action thriller direction that leaves the film feeling flat and outdated.

For example, every line in the production seems to be ADR’d in the studio after, adding this strange disconnect from everything happening on screen, when every line reading is so clear and precise. Fight choreography can’t decide between the sleek and swift martial arts its characters seem to be trained in, or the brutal 300-esque slow motion its editing seems to desire, and chase scenes just seem like extended Lexus commercials.

But more importantly, the film’s treatment of women is beyond strange for 2018. Our main character Youngblood Priest (Trevor Jackson) is placed in a polyamorous relationship with two women (Lex Scott Davis and Andrea Londo), however it becomes clear from the beginning that his relationship with Davis’ character is the more important of the two, and she fulfills the role of love interest so Londo exists purely to show his masculinity in having two women. A shower threesome scene lasts a gruesomely long amount of time, at least two minutes more than acceptable, and blurs the edge between an R rating and NC-17. Even Davis’ character is given the short stick. In another scene her character’s art gallery is crashed by a rival gang boss, and the strong opinionated women who cares about art is turned stunningly silent when Priest shows and tells her to walk away while the men discuss things.

Trevor Jackson leads the film as the silky haired, loudly dressed Priest, and does a fine but indistinct job. It’s hard to knock an actor for doing nothing specifically wrong but still coming off as simply uncharismatic. If I had to give it a reason, it would simply be youth, as Jackson is only 21 years old and six feet tall, yet the film is shot and cast so that he towers over nearly everyone else around him. Tom Holland as an example, who is a year older than Jackson, still plays a young naive kid in SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING, so seeing Jackson try to fill the screen with unabashed confidence is hard to buy. A revival of Blaxploitation in general is a hard sell, as it tries to combine heart with the gaudy silliness of action movies like THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS franchise, but ends up just coming off like it takes itself too seriously. None of that is helped by Director X’s ineffective decision on tone.

SUPERFLY opens June 13, 2018

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