Superfly: A cliche of strippers, cocaine and one-last-job crime

Review: The clothes are great, the fights well staged, but it doesn’t add up to a movie

Jason Mitchell and Trevor Jackson in Superfly (2018)
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Director: Director X
Cert: 16
Genre: Drama
Starring: Trevor Jackson, Jason Mitchell, Michael K. Williams, Lex Scott Davis, Jennifer Morrison, Kaalan "KR" Walker
Running Time: 1 hr 57 mins

Production began on this slick remake of the 1972 blaxploitation standard as recently as December. The speedy turnaround has not, alas, made for an energised movie. Director X, the Canadian music video director who has previously collaborated with Rihanna, Drake and Nicki Minaj, sure knows how to stage a snazzy tableaux. But between the spectacle – strippers, threesomes, dollars raining down, the usual – there’s a lethargic drama concerning Youngblood Priest (Trevor Jackson), his two lovers and their cocaine operation.

Youngblood wants to get out of the drug peddling business and in order to do so, he must – ta dah – sell even more drugs. His mentor and supplier, a Brazilian ju-jitsu expert named Scatter (Michael Kenneth Williams), refuses to play along, so Youngblood and his best pal Eddie (the brilliant Jason Mitchell, utterly wasted) head to Mexico to make direct contact with the cartel.

A double-cross later and the glamorous boys are sitting pretty, or rather prettier. Crooked cops (including Jennifer Morrison) turn up looking for a cut. A young hothead named JuJu (Kaalan “KR” Walker) from the rival Snow Patrol crew – definitely not to be confused with the Northern Irish chaps – decides to come after Priest. But even these developments fail to scare up any sense of jeopardy.

Instead, Superfly just sits there, like Trevor Jackson's fabulously slick and unmoving hair. The clothes are great. The cribs are well-appointed. The fight sequences, although too few, are nicely choreographed. Yet none of it seems to coalesce into a movie.


The politics, too, are fiercely problematic. Superfly 2018 makes its central females a little fiercer than they were in the 1970s, but every woman on screen is either a side chick, a main chick or topless. The bad cops subplot sits uneasily amid the wish fulfilment. And nobody ever gets around to discussing the consequences of flooding a community with cocaine. Superfly is not nearly as fly as it needed to be.

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic