My notes on the remake Superfly.Though one of blaxploitation’s big breakthrough films – after Shaft, probably the main crossover hit – Gordon Parks Jr’s Super Fly (1972) is a better soundtrack album than movie. This remake sets out to be exactly as meretricious as the original with a new Youngblood Priest (Trevor Jackson), who does have a great hairdo and snazzy coats, and a new city setting (Atlanta, rather than New York). It’s a film for young African-American men in the way Pretty Woman was for young American women – selling a fantasy of consumption, style and guilt-free retirement earned by exchanging large quantities of coke for larger quantities of cash the way PW suggests being a hooker will net you a Rodeo Drive shopping spree and a marriageable millionaire. Priest has survived by staying under the radar – his rivals, the Snow Patrol, wear all white fur and leather ensembles (in Georgia!) with matching guns, ‘dressing as if they want to be shot’ – but a near-miss after a chance argument with Snow Patrol idiot JuJu (Kaalan Waller) that gets a bystander gutshot prompts him to implement an exit stratey, with the aid of his two girlfriends (Lex Scott Davis, Andrea Londo) and purportedly useful sidekick Eddie (Jason Mitchell), though it means betraying a long-time supplier (Michael Kenneth Williams) to do a deal with a cartel boss (Esai Morales).
Given that one of the hits of Curtis Mayfield’s soul score (not reprised here) was ‘Freddy’s Dead’, it makes sense not to get too attached to loose cannon Fat Freddy (Jacob Ming-Trent) … and, in a horribly opportunist black lives matter lick, he’s executed in a staged traffic stop by a corrupt cop (Brian Durkin) who gets hailed as a hero. Fat Freddy has an elaborate funeral complete with choir and special rap and folks sobbing, though the folks he personally gunned down earlier don’t rate special treatment – and, frankly, he was an asshole who’s responsible for bringing down all the heat Priest has been studiously avoiding. After a minor Scarface shoot-out in Priest’s crib, the hero – he’s not even an antihero – gets to beat up the bigoted white killer cop to presumed audience cheers as a climax. In another topical touch, a car chase in the park ends when a car crashes into and topples a confederate statue – but in his focus on getting as much money out of his customers as possible and waltzing off to somewhere without an extradition treaty, Priest seems pretty much like a Republican. He dreams of lounging on a yacht off Montenegro with his surviving squeeze, but Eddie sees no reason not to hang around in the hope of a remake of Superfly TNT and passes the time living the high life selling cocaine, gambling and hanging out with a lot of pole dancers. Ron O’Neal’s Priest was a callous stud who enjoyed a mixed race threesome in the bath with a couple of disposable women, but the 2018 variety superfly guy is a more sensitive soul who’s in a committed menage a trois and gets it on with his women in a shower.
Written by Alex Tse (Watchmen), who stretches to a couple of quotable lines (‘nobody’s more gangsta than a bank’), and directed with music video slickness and not one ounce of honesty by Director X. On the plus side, the soundtrack has some decent new cuts – though it’s the reused (thankfully not sampled) Mayfield tracks that stand out. Otherwise, it’s a recruiting film for the drugs supply industry the way Top Gun was for the US Navy.