By Chris Campo
For some reason, I was really looking forward to SuperFly. I had not seen a single trailer, or even heard of the original 1972 film. I thought the poster looked stylish... and I may have thought this was some kind of superhero film. Although I digress; something about the title "SuperFly" struck a cord with me. I also love everything co-star Jason Mitchell is in, and will admit I’m also a huge admirer of hip-hop, and the film features a killer original soundtrack produced by rapper Future, who also produces the film. So I knew if nothing else went over well, I would have a fun time listening to the music in the theater.
Despite the title, SuperFly does not follow a super-human, but instead a young, skilled cocaine dealer in Atlanta, Youngblood Priest (Trevor Jackson), or just Priest for short. Hungry to leave the dealing game, Priest, along with his close friend Eddie (Jason Mitchell) double-crosses his mentor (Michael Kenneth Williams) to up his supply in one last big score before he escapes the game for good. Standing in his was is rival gang Snow Patrol, who has it out for Priest after a drive-by shooting goes wrong. The Mexican cartel eventually joins in on the fun, as well as some crooked cops looking for a slice of Priest's impressive pie.
SuperFly left me bored while in the theater and overall, disappointing leaving it. The potential was there, this is a story that could have fit perfectly in America's landscape. The film merely dips its toes into relevant issues, sacrificing any real substance in its been-there-done-that plot. No, I don't want every film with an all black cast to be about social injustice, or political issues, but this just seems like the perfect story for it. What we get here is a boring and overly-serious/unintentionally cartoon story that is almost never exciting. There's a few good lines touching on a black mans place in today's world, and there's a series of events with a white police officer who wrongfully kills a black man that's horrific but satisfying in its conclusion, but overall, this film plays it too safe.
This film not being as politically charged as it could have been is not what makes it a bad movie. For one, this film is just ugly, visually speaking. Director X is known for music videos, and his talents don't translate to features at all. The cinematographer Amir Morki has some decent looking films (a lot of Michael Bay’s films), but him and Director X don't conjure up a single compelling shot in the film's 2 hour run time. Not to mention, the film looks as if it was shot on a consumer digital camera, making everything feel stiff and artificial. The only thing fun to look at is the film’s lavish and fun costumes, as well as Priest's fun hairstyle. The costumes are over-exaggerated and for some reason never look out of place.
Overall, it’s just un-engaging, with no tangible stakes or believable characters or movement of any kind. Scenes usually start with Priest walking into a location, and end with him getting in a fight. Trevor Jackson does it all with charisma as a bright spot in the film, but he can't save the uninspired screenplay from dragging its feet. "Emotional" scenes are executed with no nuance, action sequences are under choreographed and under edited, and the villains are all so silly, which could of worked if it played with the idea of goofy antagonists, but the film is persistent on taking itself so seriously. The only fun idea the film has is casting Atlanta rap legend Big Boi of the group Outkast as the city's mayor.
Other issues include annoying voice over, awful roles for the women, a long sex scene that feels like something ripped from a Fifty Shades fan film, and a final act so rushed and sloppy you won't even realize the film had ended. The film does have a small handful of capable performances, and there's a shootout/car chase scene that is a little fun and better looking than most of the film's action scenes, and as predicted, the soundtrack is killer, but still, this film is bad. Competent, sure... it's by no means a disaster, but definitely not good. There’s nothing to warrant a theater viewing. This film feels like it was tailor made to be on Netflix or straight to blu-ray
There's nothing to get worked up over here, it's just a poorly made film. I bet it won't be on my worst of the year list, mostly because I will have trouble remembering it come December. I was not expecting too much from this film, I just thought it looked cool, but I still left disappointed. This film had big potential, but it squanders that potential with its lack of a voice and a lack of fresh ideas.
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