Here’s what’s cool about ‘Su­per­fly’

USA TODAY International Edition - - LIFE - An­drea Man­dell

Are you stoked for “Su­per­fly”? The re­make of the 1972 clas­sic film hits the­aters Wed­nes­day. Here are five key things you should know be­fore walk­ing into the the­ater:

There’s Hol­ly­wood his­tory around the orig­i­nal ‘Su­per Fly’

The new film, reimag­ined by Direc­tor X, has sim­i­lar beats as the orig­i­nal “Su­per Fly.” That film was con­sid­ered blax­ploita­tion, a term coined to de­scribe a slew of 1970s films that made African Amer­i­cans pro­tag­o­nists of their own sto­ries but were ex­plic­itly aimed at ur­ban au­di­ences with plots steeped in crime, vi­o­lence and ca­sual sex. The genre is see­ing a re­nais­sance in Hol­ly­wood, start­ing with Taraji P. Hen­son’s re­cent “Proud Mary,” soon to be fol­lowed by re­makes of “Shaft” and “Cleopa­tra Jones.”

Fun facts: The new “Su­per­fly” had a crazy turn­around, start­ing pro­duc­tion just five months ago. Rick Ross cameos.

The new movie is rooted in the orig­i­nal

Like its pre­de­ces­sor, “Su­per­fly” boasts a stel­lar sound­track, this time manned by Atlanta-born rap­per Fu­ture, one of the pro­duc­ers. (Fans of the orig­i­nal will note the use on­screen of that movie’s in­fa­mous “Push­er­man” track.)

In the re­make, Trevor Jack­son (“Grown-ish”) takes over for Ron O’Neal as Priest, the morally cen­tered drug lord. Both char­ac­ters have epic hair, es­chew get­ting blood on their hands and hatch an es­cape plan to leave the drug trade. But Jack­son’s mod­ern Priest has big­ger dreams than his pre­de­ces­sor: He wants to get in bed with a Mex­i­can car­tel. Ja­son Mitchell (“Straight Outta Comp­ton”) takes over for Carl Lee as Priest’s right-hand man, Ed­die.

The set­ting and the story have no­table up­dates

No longer set in Har­lem, “Su­per­fly” moves to the streets of Atlanta, fold­ing in con­tem­po­rary cul­ture and the so­cioe­co­nomic chal­lenges the African-Amer­i­can com­mu­nity con­tin­ues to face. Priest now has more money and more prob­lems: He’s beef­ing with a lo­cal gang called Snow Pa­trol while get­ting in too deep with his sup­plier across the bor­der.

The Cadil­lacs and suave suits of 1972 have been traded for di­a­mond chains and mink coats as hall­marks of wealth. And no­tably, com­pared to the orig­i­nal, there’s a sub­stan­tial re­duc­tion in the screen time char­ac­ters spend snort­ing coke, some­thing the direc­tor has said he felt un­com­fort­able glam­or­iz­ing. But this film is still a hard R, filled with vi­o­lence, guns and sex.

Some themes still ap­ply to­day

The orig­i­nal “Su­per Fly” folded in el­e­ments of the Black Pan­ther move­ment, cast­ing its lens on the poverty-stricken streets of Har­lem, where deal­ing drugs was one of the few op­tions for up­ward mo­bil­ity, In Direc­tor X’s ver­sion, po­lice bru­tal­ity and Black Lives Mat­ter are threaded into the story, with au­di­ences ex­posed to Atlanta po­lice shoot­ing a black man dur­ing a rou­tine traf­fic stop.

The com­par­isons ba­si­cally stop there

Though the orig­i­nal “Su­per Fly” was her­alded for its stylish com­po­si­tion and pow­er­ful so­cial com­men­tary, the new “Su­per­fly” is aim­ing for a more com­mer­cial re­cep­tion. Direc­tor X, known for di­rect­ing mu­sic videos for Ri­hanna, Ken­drick La­mar and Drake, has called his film a hip-hop remix of the orig­i­nal.

“It’s a black ac­tion movie,” he told Vul­ture. “We’re not look­ing to weigh you down and re­ally make you con­tem­plate this big, heavy thing. You don’t watch “The Fast and the Fu­ri­ous” and won­der about the so­cioe­co­nomic state­ment that they’re mak­ing. You watch it to see a car drive off a (ex­ple­tive) train and land on the space shut­tle!”

So should you see the orig­i­nal “Su­per Fly” be­fore hit­ting the the­ater? You don’t have to, but you’ll cer­tainly groove with the nods to the 1972 film if you do.


Big Bank Black flashes the cash as leader of the Atlanta gang Snow Pa­trol in the re­make.

Ron O’Neal is Priest, a drug dealer who seeks to go on the straight and nar­row in the 1972 orig­i­nal. WARNER BROS.

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