Superfly Review: Bland Update Fails to Deliver in Super Fail

1.5/5 dope coats.
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There are times the new Superfly is so awful that it seems like a parody of a bad movie. Sadly, there is nothing in this movie that is supposed to be a joke, leading to a film that feels much longer than its 103-minute runtime.

Superfly follows Atlanta drug kingpin Priest (Trevor Jackson), who wants one more big score, before he retires, as he doesn’t want to end up dead or in prison. Various obstacles thwart his plans, but little is done to elevate the generic plot. At the helm is Director X, who is out of his depth directing this movie. Take Superfly and edit it down to a four-minute music video, and maybe it could have gotten everyone buzzing, but as a feature, it’s nothing but a missed opportunity.

The movie is a muddled mess, consisting of a terrible script, a story full of cliches, characters that all lack in the IQ department, an unimpressive soundtrack, and cringe-worthy performances. It inspires nothing but secondhand embarrassment. Not even vets like Esai Morales and Michael Kenneth Williams can give it credibility.

Jackson may be super pretty, but he’s woefully miscast. We’re supposed to believe he’s a genius criminal who’s so badass that he instills fear with his mere presence, without needing to get violent, but can also easily defeat a half-dozen guys with his bare hands? No way. Now, if Priest were playing a male model, that would be plausible. Jackson is not the only actor who fails at being a convincing tough guy. Most of the cast suffers by relying on blandness and stereotypes.

The makeup and costume choices also don’t help, as it seems to be a requirement that every supposedly tough character must have face or neck tattoos to convey that toughness, regardless of performance. Never does this appear more ludicrous than with the one character who isn’t even respected in-universe, who has “thug life” inked across his face. Next to the tattoos, rampant uttering of the n-word is also used to demonstrate a character’s mettle. It’s lazy.

The film is full of fragile and toxic masculinity, with little commentary. However, it is a welcome surprise that there isn’t casual homophobic language getting tossed around, as well. The lead character is a faithful boyfriend and very concerned with high fashion (Priest’s outerwear is endlessly exquisite), jewelry, and his hair. He definitely cares about clothes more than his drug empire. At one point, a male rival even acknowledges he’s pretty (in passing, while threatening him, but still). None of these characteristics are ever used to insult or question Priest’s—or any other character’s—sexuality, as is so often the case, and that is refreshing.

It’s also shown how Priest and his girlfriend … have a girlfriend, and that they are an out poly triad. While there is an overly long threesome scene, this is not simply there to have the main guy seem irresistible and have gratuitous girl-on-girl action. His home life may be secondary to the story, but this is a real relationship, and is treated as such by how the three interact—whether it be caring and lovingly, or if they are arguing. It’s depicted like any other couple (so to speak). It would have been great to see the film lean into these more progressive aspects, instead of clinging to tired cliches of what this kind of movie is supposed to be.

Superfly’s onscreen treatment of women feels extremely dated. Women, what few there are, are mostly naked and getting money thrown on them, regardless of context, when it’s not a girlfriend getting shot. It’s 2018, and you can’t write women? Get a new job. Meanwhile, the most intriguing character was the septuagenarian queen of a Mexican drug cartel, portrayed by Renee Victor, who did more with two tiny scenes than Jackson did in the whole movie, despite being in nearly every frame. She’s the one who deserves the titular role.

(image: Sony Pictures)

Jenna is a freelance writer from the New York City area. She has appeared on Teen Vogue, Film School Rejects, and Daytime Confidential. Any spare time is spent obsessing over pop culture. You can join the discussion over on her Twitter here.

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