As far as remakes of 20th century movies go, this has to be one of the more obscure choices…
“Superfly” is the updated telling of the 1972 blaxploitation film “Super Fly” and stars Trevor Jackson as an Atlanta drug dealer who tries to set up the infamous “one last job” before getting out of the criminal underworld. Jason Mitchell, Michael K. Williams, Lex Scott Davis and Jennifer Morrison also star as Director X, best known for helming music videos, makes his directorial debut.
We’ve seen music video directors try their hand of directing feature films, such as Benny Boom with last year’s Tupac biopic “All Eyez on Me,” “The Amazing Spider-Man’s” Marc Webb and even David Fincher (as you can tell, results vary). Director X (real name Julien Christian Lutz) has worked with the likes of rappers Drake and Kendrick Lamar and here he is occasionally able to show the glitz and glamor of the Atlanta nightlife. Much like “Casino,” his characters live in a world of excess so the houses are too big, the clubs too busy and the cars too extravagant; but unlike “Casino,” he doesn’t really do anything with it, nor is there the “desert scene” that shows the empty contrast when a character comes close to losing it all.
The shootouts and fight scenes all seem to be shot competently but Director must’ve gone to the Zack Snyder film of action filming because every time a character is punched or shot the film instantly shifts into slow-motion for no reason whatsoever. As we are all wise to by this point in the game, this is a move by amateur directors to try and increase tension or seem artistic but in reality drains a scene of any real momentum or style.
The performances are mostly fine, in a film that builds itself off being just that: fine. Main man Trevor Jackson, best known for his work on the very good “Black-ish” spinoff “Grown-ish,” holds his own even if it is at times hard to take him completely serious as a kingpin who knows every inch of the Atlanta streets and commands respect (his hair is constantly perfect though, so props to the makeup team). Should be two-time Academy Award nominee Jason Mitchell and actual two-time Emmy nominee Michael K. Williams both add a sense of gravitas as partners-in-crime of Jackson, even if both are given nothing to do and know exactly what sort of movie they’re in.
Meanwhile the two police characters, played by Brian F. Durkin and Jennifer Morrison, are from a completely different movie than everyone else and are total cartoons. Morrison overacts a lot of her lines while Durkin is introduced making an arrest and is talk-singing the rap song “Ridin’ Dirty” and it is full-blown cringe and he only gets worse from there.
“Superfly” is super fine, like a low-ranking drug dealer. It may have grand ambitions but has no idea how to obtain them, may have the pieces in place to rise above but seems content just getting by on good enough. The “one last job” storyline is one we’ve seen over and over since the original “Super Fly” and this film, already showing us characters we’ve seen before, seems fine with not taking risks.
Critic’s Grade: C