Trevor Jackson steps out of the shadow of Grownish and fills Ron O’Neal’s shoes as the new Superfly.
Back in 1972, Gordon Parks gave us a vision of Harlem’s gritty streets at the height of the cocaine era. Director X (known for shooting the signature visuals of your favorite rap artist) takes that vision and updates it to the luxury grow up which is Atlanta’s drug scene, where Trevor Jackson shines as the new Priest. For those too young to remember the blaxploitation film era, films like Super Fly, Shaft, and Cleopatra Jones were the shining jewels of that film genre. A style of a film, while highly stereotypical in nature, were some of the first movies where Blacks were the lead characters handling issues in their own communities with some sort of anti-establishment undertone. They were no longer relegated to highly racist tropes visualized as sidekicks or as victims of brutality.
Enter Youngblood Priest the good-looking druglord seeking to get out of the game. Ron O’Neal’s original take on the character dispensed his own pimp brand of kick-ass laying down anyone in his way. Whether using the high flying kicks of martial arts (which as super popular at the time) or a loaded gun, O’Neal always left his action scenes looking smooth as silk while sending his enemies to shiny new caskets. Young heartthrob Trevor Jackson walks the path of the non-lethal samurai or Batman, however for complicated reasons. He handles most situations using his fight progress or his mind, even at one point dodging a bullet at point-blank range.
On one hand, he monologues that death leaves a stench on you that can never be washed away and catches up with you; while on the other he is a calculating intelligent drug lord that focuses on the long-game while staying under the radar. In fact, in the entire movie he avoids using guns as much as he can focusing on his fighting fists of fury (which stays true to the genre); except for a gun range scene where he goes off in a blast of Call of Duty precision never missing the mark with military grade automatic weapons.
Jackson trades the platform shoes and mink fur coats to be dripped down in Versace. Yet, he holds on to the classic over the shoulder fur and leather jackets while rocking pressed hair that would make Prince proud. Priest has issues with being considered just a criminal while acknowledging that he did what he had to do to outgrow the poverty and glass ceiling of his youth. He is in stark contrast to his partner Eddie who is the wild hood type that enjoys the lifestyle. Insert Belly or Paid In Full character here. Priest chooses to launder money through a furniture store and one of his girlfriend’s art gallery, Eddie prefers the flashy gambling lifestyle of a 90’s era Tupac BET Uncut video.
Priest thinks in Ocean’s 11 level planning from using cryptocurrency, an informer network to put him in bed with the cartels, a catfish ploy, and even manipulating a city politician. Even the women in his life get an update played by Lex Scott Davis (Georgia) and Andrea Londo (Cynthia). Davis plays the Black girlfriend who helps him get into the upper crust of society, while Londo counts the money and bandishes the uzi in all of her Scarface glory. Georgia is his first love, the one that wants to see them move on from this life. Cynthia has come from the bando and understands how this game works. They are not side hoes, and despite their complicated polyamorous relationship, they are The Three Amigos who built this from the ground up. They have a symbiotic relationship. And passion, although O’Neal’s bathroom sex scene raised eyebrows back in the day, Jackson’s shower threesome deserves a Pornhub rating. By the reaction of the women in the theatre, he definitely earned his ‘zaddy’ status (which would be a total boost to his music career).
On a more serious note, Superfly does deal with police brutality and the corruption found in the criminal justice system. This plays in with the anti-establishment plight that mirrored the policing and racism of America in the 1970’s (apparently 2018 as well). Priest’s fight to get out the game turns into a mission that is one part revenge to one part finding equity and payback with “The Man.” The film has a decent plot twist which prevents our plucky anti-hero from receiving typical trademark thug death. Produced by Future with a screenplay by Alex Tse, this film may not get a Golden Globe nod, but it is good fun that lives up to the original. Not to mention its soundtrack fully functions as a Future album. They have crafted a solid action-packed date movie that will leave male and female audiences entertained and not feeling like they wasted their money. With that said, it definitely will have a “Netflix and Chill” staying power fueled by decent car chases and car scenes propped up by a love scene that left nothing to the imagination.