June 20, 2018

Superfly: Trevor Jackson Plays the Title Character in Remake of Blaxploitation Classic

By Kam Williams

Super Fly (1972) was one of the most profitable of the blaxploitation [black exploitation] era movies. Released during the genre’s heyday, the picture was about its iconic title character, Youngblood Priest, a flamboyant cocaine dealer who dressed like a pimp, drove flashy cars, and distributed his wares from a spoon, shaped like a cross, that was draped around his neck.

With a modest budget of just $500,000, the film’s box-office success led to several sequels, (Super Fly T.N.T. (1973) and The Return of Superfly (1990).

With its poor production values, Super Fly was ready to be remade, and this movie is an upgrade that does not disappoint. With the help of Julien Christian Lutz (aka Director X), the movie bears a greater resemblance to McG’s frenetically-paced Charlie’s Angels (2000) and Baz Luhrmann’s interpretation of The Great Gatsby (2013) than to any blaxploitation films made in the 70s.

The setting has been shifted to Atlanta, but the basic plotline is otherwise faithful to the source material. The film is narrated by the picture’s protagonist, played by Trevor Jackson (TV’s Grown-ish).

At the point of departure, Priest informs us — via voice-over — that he’s been selling drugs on the street since the age of 11. He heads a gang caught in the midst of a bloody turf war, complete with drive-by shootings, with a gang called the Snow Patrol.

Priest wants out of his gang, but first he has to do a bigger deal than he’s ever attempted before. That involves going over the head of his supplier Scatter (Michael Kenneth Williams) to get a huge shipment of narcotics directly from the South American cartel kingpin, Adalberto Gonzales (Esai Morales).

Somehow director Lutz manages to manipulate the audience into rooting for unsavory characters whom you’d cross the street to avoid in real life. This incarnation of Superfly is a riveting, slick, and pulse-pounding remake that easily blows away the original.

Excellent (****). Rated R for pervasive profanity, graphic sexuality, violence, ethnic slurs, nudity, and drug use. Running time:108 minutes. Production Studios: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Entertainment/Silver Pictures. Distributor: Columbia Pictures.