Rob Reviews "SuperFly"
I have gotten to that point in my life where I am pretty set in my ways. Whether it comes to the way I like to dress, the music I like to listen to, and even the leisure activities that I enjoy, any attempts to duplicate the things that were a part of my life growing up are met with a mixed bag of emotions. With people like myself, which we like to refer to as “of a certain age,” there is a swelling of anti-remake/reboot/reimaging sentiment as it pertains to our entertainment. With what seems to be a lack of imagination to come up with anything new in Hollywood, it’s just like the story cycle has been reset for a new generation.
Now, take the film subgenre of “blaxploitation” that was prevalent in the ‘70s. With films like “Shaft” and its two sequels, “Foxy Brown,” “Blacula,” “Cleopatra Jones,” and more, this style of filmmaking is truly a capsule in time with its over-the-top acting, crazy action, oversexualized characters, violence galore, and extreme depictions of visual effects and vice. In 2000, “Shaft” was brought back with Samuel L. Jackson in the title role but more retro-fitted for a new millennium. This worked on a few levels but did not really capture who the character was to those of us that remembered its original iteration (personally, I binged all three of those films in a weekend when I managed a video store back in the day). But at least with “Shaft,” there was some work that could be done to keep the essence of it there.
Last year, it was announced that another film from this era would be re-imagined in “Super Fly”. The tale of a drug dealer that wants to rise above his station for one last score that will get him out of the game forever has more ‘70s clichés than you can shake a pimp stick at, and the concept of making it work in a 2018 world seemed shaky at best. With popular hip-hop and R&B director Director X. (formerly known as Little X) at the helm and Trevor Jackson set to star, Old Man Rob stood at the ready to tell this film to get off of my lawn and stop messing with my formative years.
With the original taking place in Harlem, this version moves the story to Atlanta, where Youngblood Priest (Jackson) is the same mid-level hustler that decides to work one big score with his brother, Eddie (Jason Mitchell), to get them both out of the criminal game for good. When his supplier, Scatter (Omar himself, Michael Kenneth Williams) won’t up his share to reach his goal, he decides to go above his head to the Mexican cartel, Gonzalez (Esai Morales). While he is dealing with all of this, another group that is now friends turned enemies in Snow Patrol, led by Q (hip-hop artist Big Bank Black) and his right hand man, Juju (also a hip-hop artist ad acting newcomer Kaalan “KR” Walker) now after him for what they feel is a hit sent to their crew by him and keeping his reputation for staying off the radar of “The Man,” Priest has more than he can handle while trying to get rid of it all.
By using the term “loosely based,” I have kind of worked myself into a corner of a negative connotation, but here, I mean that in the most respectful sense. There is NO WAY to pull off a pure remake of a movie like “Super Fly” in modern times without turning it into some form of parody (like “I’m Gonna Get You, Sucka” or “Black Dynamite,” both great films in their own right), but X. is able to do so in a way that both pays homage to the source material and lets this two-word-title-into-one version stand on its own. All of the elements are here, but they are presented in a way that will have fans of the original saying “I see what you did there” without it being so much of a wink that it gets lost on a new audience. Rapper Future does an amazing job with the soundtrack, even including a couple of numbers from its predecessor in the theme (albeit very short towards the end, but I will still take it) as well as “Pusherman,” along with a number of new tracks from him as well as other Atlanta artists. Legend of the ATL and half of OutKast Big Boi even has a role in the film itself as Atlanta’s mayor, which got a huge roar from the audience during the screening that I attended.
“Superfly” definitely exceeded my expectations for it, providing a two-hour slow burn to a very exciting third act that has everything needed to appeal to its target audience. If you can handle all of the things that definitely earn its “R” rating, I highly recommend checking it out to either harken back to a “simpler time” or start a new tradition where THIS version becomes the “old school” thought of down the line.