Better late than never, right? I wasn’t sure I was going to take the plunge and see SuperFly, the remake of the 1972 similarly-titled film Super Fly. It’s a crime film, which I’m not crazy about (I struggle to engage with lead characters who are wittingly engaging in criminal activity), and the director’s pretentious moniker of Director X is extremely off-putting to me, as it screams for attention to the point of sapping it away from the film and its cast. It leads to concerns that the film is about the filmmaker and not the work. You might remember how I responded the last time I saw a film where that was the case. But I was convinced to give it a try after I saw The First Purge and really liked Lex Scott Davis’s turn as Nya in that film. She has potential to be a star and so I decided to see SuperFly, as it’s the only other feature film she has done and I’m curious to see if her screen presence would carry over or if it was a fluke.
The jury is still out on that. I’ve never seen the original Super Fly so I will be unable to directly compare the two but, seeing as how it managed to attain cult status, I certainly hope it’s better than the film I saw, today. I obviously don’t know how much of that original film is carried over to this remake but there are two possibilities: 1) the 2018 version is a direct adaptation of the 1972 version or 2) elements were changed to attempt to bring the story into modern times. Based on some of the content, I suspect the latter is the case but, either way, Director X didn’t mark the spot and fails at nearly every turn.
The film plays like every fourteen-year-old’s idea of “cool” – guns, sex, cursing, fighting, and pure nonsense from start to finish. None of those things are a problem on their own (maybe the nonsense), but if they aren’t supported by a strong creative framework, they just reek of desperation in the face of the knowledge that the filmmaker doesn’t know how to convey anything of real substance. What’s even worse is that, in spite of all of the provocative material, the movie is a tiresome chore almost all the way through.
Not a single character in the film is a decent human being. Not one. This is a huge cinema sin (but don’t ask the clueless putzes over at Cinema Sins about it. They know as much about movies as I do about auto mechanics. [Pssst! I don’t know anything about auto mechanics!]), as the viewer needs an anchor to latch onto so that the film strikes a narrative balance. Even Suicide Squad, as bad as it was (read that review here), knew better than to do that, giving audiences Rick Flag and Kitana to hang their hats on. But here, it’s a bunch of criminals trying to out-criminal each other. Even the lead and presumable “protagonist”, Youngblood Priest (Trevor Jackson) only wishes to retire because he’s had his fill, he has his money, and he wants to get out of danger – not because he’s seen the error of his ways.
The cast – while not actively bad, seems as bored by all of this as I was. The dialogue is bland, the action is derivative, and there’s nothing here that audiences haven’t seen in loads of movies before – and done much better. Jackson, Davis, and the rest sleepwalk through the entire thing, showing almost no passion (Davis gets one fleeting moment) as Director X pushes them from one silly juvenile fantasy to the next. In one scene at the beginning of the film, Priest literally dodges a bullet like he’s Neo. In another, two grown women actually get into the ol’ traditional (and antiquated) hair-pulling cat fight over their favorite law-breaking drug-dealing murderer as other felons around them enthusiastically throw cash into the air. *Sigh*.
If the idea for this film was to push filmmaking forward for African-Americans and/or women (the first might have been the goal. The second, I assure you, was not.), then your game is over, Director X. Please try again. There isn’t a character in the film that isn’t a horrible stereotype. And, even when a halfhearted effort is put forth to make a statement about police violence against blacks in America, Director X (CAN I JUST CALL YOU “JULIEN LUTZ”?!) misses the point, entirely, forgetting that the real issue is violence against innocent black people. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Well, cops shouldn’t be shooting black criminals without due process because of their skin color, either, Stephen!” And you’re absolutely right. But the violence against blacks by cops in this film isn’t even racially motivated. It’s motivated by money! Way, to go, “Director X”.
This film does nobody any favors. It does no favors for the cast, for whom I feel sorry just for being associated with this mess. It does no favors for anyone involved in the creative side of the film, who will be judged by it when looking for work in the future. It does no favors for minorities in America. And it does no favors for the audiences who, like me, thought it might be worth a shot. To be positive, there’s one brief entertaining verbal exchange about Mike Tyson, plenty of eye candy regardless of one’s persuasion, and a fairly engaging action scene towards the end of the film. It’s not enough. Despite all of that, the film is brutally passé and boring, not to mention embarrassingly brainless.
The only reason this isn’t my pick for the worst film of the year is because it doesn’t quite reach the level of stupidity that a couple of other films from 2018 managed to reach. I think the cast can recover and be okay. Virtually every young actor has some stinkers on their résumé at the beginning of their careers. I wish them all luck in the future. “Director X” needs to grow and mature before trying to make a real film, again. Though, he’s 42 years old, so . . .. Yeah. Don’t worry about making a “cool” film and focus on making a good one. It’s funny that I was just harping on people who rail against any media that’s “fun”. This is exactly the type of tripe those people would put out. So, hey, you all! This one’s for you!
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