Director X’s remake of Superfly debuted this week to rave reviews and here are 10 things about the new movie that will make it a cult classic.
1. Trevor Jackson is officially grown.
Trevor Jackson plays the lead, Priest. He is a drug-dealer like Ron O’Neal’s Youngblood Priest from the original 1972 classic. He also has a taste for luxury like O’Neal’s Priest. But that is where the comparison stops. And that’s what most expected. The biggest question from many fans was how the pop star Jackson would pull of this gritty role. The squeaky-clean Jackso is best known for shows like Disney’s Let It Shine or Freeform’s Grown-ish. He is also known for his “special” friendship with Zendaya Coleman. But that is of the past. He is an uber-sleek, tough talking, ass-kicking boss. He is clever and puts plans together like a skilled businessman (great character development by screenwriter Alex Tse.) What makes him officially grown is the shower scene with his TWO girlfriends. Let’s just say… Trevor has moved from teenybopper into full heart-throb mode in one giant swoop or brilliantly executed sex scene. This feat was done last year by Kofi Siriboe. Remember when he was a kid in Lincoln Heights, chubby face and all young looking? Of course, you don’t. With the introduction of Ralph Angel in Queen Sugar, all you can think about is the African King that had the grapefruit incident with Jada Pinkett-Smith in Girls Trip. This is going to do the same thing for Jackson. He can thank Director X for orchestrating a scene (that could have been over the top and explicit) that was actually seductive and tasteful. He can also thank him for getting us to finally accept that this former Lion King Young Simba is officially grown.
2. Casting Big Boi as the God-fearing, over-sexed politician was brilliant.
Lately, it seems that Outkast member Big Boi has found his second calling in entertainment. From his role on BET’s The Quad to his guest spots on Fox’s Star, the ATLien brings his southernplayalistic vibe to each character he portrays. Arguably, each role is classic Big Boi in a different environment, leaving fans (who want to see him as a legitimate actor) fiending for more. Well, his role as Mayor Atkins in Superfly stretches the rapper-turned-actor in ways that will surely please those who yearn to see him grow. Big Boi plays Mayor Atkins, a politician who appears to be up for election. Sounds interesting? It gets so much juicier! Mayor Atkins is a Christian, maybe even a preacher… the kind that can quote a scripture out of his mouth at one turn and then run his hand up the thigh of female campaign supporter in the next minute. And the savoire-faire that he demonstrates in this role was one of the highlights and will definitely gain him new fans.
3. Kung Fu and Art: Drug dealers should never look like drug dealers.
Priest is a successful drug dealer because he was trained by the best. His mentor is Scatter (played by Michael K. Williams) is like the movie’s Yoda. He dispenses wisdom in a quirky sensei fashion (No literally, the guy is a Kung Fu master) and teaches the art of war from physical combat to intellectual strategy to the young hustlers coming up after him. One of the gems he offers in the film is essentially that “drug dealers should never look like drug dealers.” They should have deviation and distractions that will keep the police from suspecting them as kingpins. For him it is the martial arts school. For Priest, it is the art gallery. Another departure from the original movie, the dough boys in this version don’t ever seem to sample their goods and keep their businesses running like actual businesses. Jackson’s Priest owns clubs and is not a pimp like O’Neil’s Priest. Instead, he treats his employees to appreciation dinners and cares about their well-being (ooo can’t give too much.) So discreet are his moves in the 2018 movie, the cops had no idea that he was anything more than a fancy hair having community businessman. Maybe his moves did not make him look like a drug dealer, but his hair did.
4. Who is Morris Day?
Speaking of Priest’s hair. There is a joke that is in this film that made everyone in the audience over 35 crack up. Scatter talks about teaching Priest style. The flashback to his how they met revealed a hood kid trying to get on with the typical hood kid uniform. They both agreed that the OG helped refine (and perhaps define) his look. But then Scatter inserts that he can’t take credit for his Morris Day hair and Jackson’s Priest says super coolly, “Who is Morris Day?” The crowd went wild with laughter. Great writing! Those kinds of nods make this movie worth its weight in salt.
5. Jason Mitchell is one of this generation’s most versatile actors.
Jason Mitchell can’t be touched. Low-key his role selection throughout his career has been fire and establishes him as one of this generation’s most talented and chameleon-like actors. Consider his role as Brandon Johnson in The Chi and compare that to his role as Ronsel Jackson in Academy Award nominated Mudbound and tell me that you really believe that this is the same guy that played Eazy E in Straight Out of Compton. He suspends your consciousness, allowing us not to see him and to totally buy into the person on the screen. He does the same as Eddie, Priest’s partner. While Jackson’s Priest is sleek and sophisticated, Mitchell’s Eddie is like somebody you know off the block. He authentically captured trap king swagger without writing it across his forehead… even down to the dice gaming, little man vibrato and getting money pouch in the front, he makes you believe he about that life. Truly one of the strongest performances of this very talented cast.
6. Mind your business and stay in your lane.
If the plot of the film focuses on getting out of the lifestyle, then the subtext is do it by minding your business and staying in your lane. Over and over again, you see this thread popping up. People wanting to be more than what they are and hating on the next man for doing something that is totally not even in your lane. Whether we are talking about the Juju from the Snow Patrol, who is obnoxiously jealous of every finely pressed out hair on Priest’ perfectly coifed head to Fat Freddy (Jacob Ming-Trent) just wanting to be in the same lane as Rick Ross. Is he stupid? Which is how everyone in the entire film (on screen and in the audience) were looking at him… You can’t be Rick Ross! He is Rick Ross… whether he playing himself in the flick or in real life… what are you dumb? But that is not even the biggest example of people not minding their business and staying in their lanes. There is a scene where a fight breaks out and someone gets all “World-Star” on the gram and ultimately gets all “World-Star” on the gram. You have to stay in your lane if you are trying to make it to the end of the movie. What a great lesson, so portable but often left on the side (even in real life).
7. Chances are if you are in The Source’s Unsigned Hype… you are going to be a star
Fans have to watch out for Kaalan “KR” Walker. The actor plays Juju, the jealous Snow Patrol lieutenant in Superfly. But The Source magazine told you that he was popping years ago. In 2013, Walker appeared in our Power30 Issue as our Unsigned Hype. Back then fans loved the lyricism of this prolific lyricist, pushing his first mixtape into international critical acclaim. As an actor, he seems to be made for the big screen. This should not shock anyone. Talent discovery is what The Source does. If you think about our Unsigned Hype over the last 30 years, you will see stars like Biggie, Mobb Deep, DMX, Eminem and Academy Award winner, Common ranked as your favorite rappers, favorite rappers. And most of our favorite rappers become even doper actors. Check out the article on KR from back in 2013, when we discovered this new star. http://thesource.com/2013/08/28/try-and-keep-up-with-our-next-unsigned-hype-artist-kr-in-his-new-poetic-death-2-video/
8. Don’t Ever Get Your Girl Mad
There is nothing like a woman scorned. That is the other lesson that Superfly teaches. While it seems like a no brainer, there is something in the guy’s mind that seems to leap over this while making relationship decisions. If your girl gets mad at you and you are into some hood stuff, chances are you are going to jail, getting beat up, robbed or she will get your killed. That should be Drug Dealer 101. Director X teaches us in a cleaner and more clear way that which Hype Williams tried to in his cult classic, Belly. Your girl can either make or break your squad. If you keep your ladies happy like Priest does his two girls (yes, I am still on that) … then you most likely won’t have too much trouble. But get sloppy like Fat Freddy… just watch… and your whole program will get jacked.
9. Dirty Cops Can Pop Up Anywhere
The film shows us that even our best and most thought out plans can always go left if one is not careful. While Priest works hard to keep his program from getting jacked, often times others dropped the ball. And each time a ball was dropped there was a dirty cop there to pop up and take advantage of the situation. The film masterfully captured how crooked police have their own system of hustle. The various levels of corruption throughout the film added a level of intrigue into the daily life of a drug dealer. From pay offs to extortion, you see that the underground crime culture is intricate and expansive— going from the beat cop to detectives to the mayor of the city. It would be interesting to see if this fictionalized portrayal of blue corruption was made up on the spot or ripped and imagined from a news headline.
10. Superfly 2018 represented for the United Nations
Finally, what made Superfly such a cult classic for this era is that it represented many different races and cultures. There was an Asian spot where they gathered to do business and relax. Inside the club, the blending of communities was seamless. While not over the top, the nod strategically placed in by the Alex Tse made you stop and take note. The Mexican cartel that showed us family, soccer and matriarchy in a brand-new way. Done without any patronization, it was cool to see actor Esai Morales hold it down for his community. Race relations between Blacks and Whites where made clear throughout any exchange between the cops and crews but was also celebrated in the club scenes.
While it Superfly will not be nominated for an Oscar, it does what it is supposed to do: Entertain. During the film premiere, the audience cheered, yelled at the screen, gasped and laughed. Director X did not smudge up the 2018 atmosphere with the drugs and exploitation associated with the original but created something noteworthy and solid. It has been a long time since we associated the director with the likes of Aaliyah, DMX, Redman and other Hip-Hop legends. Now, he is rolling with Hollywood big shots like Ethan Erwin and Aaron Auch. Look at how we can revel in the maturation of this Hip-Hop baby. We continue to grow and that is super… fly.