[Screen It]

"SUPERFLY"
(2018) (Trevor Jackson, Michael Kenneth Williams) (R)


Read Our Full Content Movie Review for Parents

QUICK TAKE:
Crime Thriller: An Atlanta cocaine dealer tires of his criminal lifestyle and seeks one final big score, as rivals and corrupt cops conspire against him.
PLOT:
Priest (TREVOR JACKSON) is an Atlanta-based cocaine dealer who has been so successful at his life of crime that he's never been arrested. The local cops have never even heard of him. Rescued from the streets and mentored by Scatter (MICHAEL KENNETH WILLIAMS), Priest lives in a nice house, has a souped-up sports car, and two beautiful girlfriends in Georgia (LEX SCOTT DAVIS) and Cynthia (ANDREA LONDO).

But a run-in with a local gang known as the Snow Patrol, cocaine dealers who dress in all-white ski outfits and are led by Q (BIG BANK BLACK), gets Priest to thinking about his life and how he'd like his future to play out. He wants to set up one final big score that will net him tens of millions of dollars and then leave America. To do this, he will betray Scatter and set up his own deal with a Mexican drug cartel run by Gonzalez (ESAI MORALES) in which he promises to move triple the product Scatter had been responsible for.

But as dollars start to pile up, Priest finds it harder and harder to leave the lifestyle, especially with Q's unstable majordomo, Juju (KAALAN WALKER), gunning for him; his best friend, Eddie (JASON MITCHELL), constantly fouling things up; one of his lieutenants, Fat Freddy (JACOB MING-TRENT), wanting to be more than just "the muscle;" and two corrupt cops, Mason (JENNIFER MORRISON) and Turk (BRIAN F. DURKIN), wanting in on the action.

OUR TAKE: 4.5 out of 10
If you identify yourself with the Black Lives Matter movement, the Blue Lives Matter counter-movement, the #MeToo uprising, and any number of other social justice campaigns, "SuperFly" might not be the movie for you. Black lives are wasted throughout. The blue lives are mostly corrupt ones who want in on multimillion-dollar drug deals and will resort to murder and blackmail to get their unfair share. And the film's treatment of women? I checked. Harvey Weinstein was NOT among the producers.

Look, this remake of the 1972 blaxploitation classic takes place in the world of Atlanta's big-dollar cocaine trade, and it's a gangsta's paradise from the way filmmaker Director X (that's his name) depicts it. Big mansions, fast cars, fancy clothes, fine cigars, and hot tubs full of strippers. It ain't "Time's Up" for the film's competing druglords, Priest (Trevor Jackson), Q (Big Bank Black), and Scatter (Michael Kenneth Williams). They still live in a "man's world" where the guys make all the decisions and the money, and the girlfriends must be perfectly willing to have another women in the shower, the bed, the relationship.

Priest (Trevor Jackson) is the central character. He's the drug dealer with morals, ethics, and a code of honor. But a near-death experience in which Q's top lieutenant Juju (Kaalan Walker) takes a shot at him, misses, and hits an innocent bystander convinces him that it's time to give up the life. But, of course, he vows to make one last big score to set himself up for life and his two girlfriends. He gets the bright idea to usurp his mentor, Scatter, and promise a ruthless Mexican cartel led by Gonzalez (Esai Morales) that he can move three times the amount of cocaine that Scatter can. Gonzalez agrees. But that leads to increased tensions with Q's Snow Patrol gang and with two crooked cops (Jennifer Morrison and Brian F. Durkin).

It was hard for me to know what to root for throughout "SuperFly." At one point, it is made clear that Priest's fortune has mushroomed to $38 million. At that point, the movie was over for me. I probably would have headed for Montenegro with $8 million. Heck, I'd go there now if I could live rent-free and was promised decent Wi-Fi.

How much is enough for Priest? It's not a question the movie is interested in answering. Even when he breaks down to his girlfriend, Georgia (Lex Scott Davis), and expresses his fear that they'll never be able to get out, it's never really made clear why they can't just fill some suitcases with cash and hit the road. Of course, there would be no movie. And there are scores to settle and crooked cops to beat to near-death.

"SuperFly" has a certain B-movie-quality watch-ability that makes it guilty entertainment for a while. But the longer it went on, the more I noticed Director X's way-too-tight control of the narrative. He should have called himself Puppetmaster X. Because, in order to keep Priest an honorable and somewhat clean character, he can never really have him kill another character on screen or give the order himself to have someone killed as would be standard practice in this lifestyle.

Even when he is engaged in a high-speed car chase that takes him through a public park, he does everything he can to swerve and dodge multiple pedestrians and innocent bystanders. And that woman who got shot by mistake with the bullet intended for him? He runs over and gives her a wad of cash and advises her as to which hospital to go to and which one not to. Never mind that the cocaine Priest has been peddling for years has strung out countless hundreds, maybe even thousands.

I've never seen the original, so I can't compare the two. But with this being 2018, it can't help but be slicker, flashier, and a lot more glossy. Director X cut his teeth in music videos. And this is kind of like watching a 100-minute-plus music video. However, I give it no better than a 4.5 out of 10. (T. Durgin)




Reviewed June 11, 2018 / Posted June 13, 2018


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