“Su­per­fly”

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The grungy, fairly en­ter­tain­ing re­make of “Su­per­fly” bor­rows a few key nar­ra­tive hooks from the 1972 orig­i­nal, along with key el­e­ments of its fan­tas­tic Cur­tis May­field sound­track (no­tably “Push­er­man”). But for bet­ter or worse, the new ver­sion has no in­ter­est in fash­ion­ing the same sort of mashup of blax­ploita­tion and film noir Gor­don Parks Jr. cre­ated. The new “Su­per­fly” moves the ac­tion from Har­lem to At­lanta, with a side trip to Juarez, Mex­ico. When the vis­ual pre­oc­cu­pa­tions aren’t slow-mo­tion drug car­tel mass murders, they lean into pure, leer­ing hip-hop male fan­tasy. Ev­ery time any­one rolls up to a new club or some high roller’s sub­ur­ban man­sion, a dozen par­ty­go­ers are mak­ing the Jack­sons and the hun­dos rain, while anony­mous, barely clothed young women a la the Busta Rhymes/Nicki Mi­naj “Tw­erk It” video get their close-up. Parts of them do, any­way. The man be­hind that video, and many more, goes by the name Di­rec­tor X, and he di­rected the new “Su­per­fly.” No longer a street-level hustler and co­caine user, the 2018-model Young­blood Priest is a clean-liv­ing, mul­ti­fac­eted busi­ness­man. He moves his prod­uct in ev­er­more-lu­cra­tive amounts with his part­ner Ed­die (Jason Mitchell); he in­vests in an art gallery run by his lover Ge­or­gia; and, in a car­ing, com­mu­nity-minded way, he keeps tabs on ev­ery cor­ner of At­lanta’s crim­i­nal activity, from the mayor’s of­fice to the dirty cops on the force. Ge­or­gia (Lex Scott Davis, do­ing won­ders with a noth­ing role) is one-third of a menage a trois. Priest’s love life con­sti­tutes a sta­ble tri­an­gle of plea­sure. This we learn in a slow-mo shower se­quence of ex­treme soft­porn sensitivity, one-up­ping the ’72 film’s fa­mous bath­tub sex scene. Else­where, the di­rec­tor’s pen­chant for slowmo can get a lit­tle ridicu­lous, es­pe­cially in the mar­tial-arts kicks and medium-wattage car chases. I did, how­ever, en­joy see­ing a Con­fed­er­ate statue take a tum­ble when one ve­hi­cle met its fiery end. If you can for­get about the movie’s gen­eral moral vac­u­ous­ness, the ex­tremely un­even dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy and the slav­ish de­vo­tion to de­signer as­sault weapons, many of them pearly-white in synch with the coke-ped­dling gang­sters known as Snow Pa­trol, the screen­play by “Watch­men” scribe Alex Tse keeps the shift­ing al­liances and power plays in clever cir­cu­la­tion. The cast’s over­all ef­fec­tive­ness is mit­i­gated some­what by the pleas­ant but in­dis­tinct pres­ence of Trevor Jack­son (“Grown­ish”) as Priest, the su­per­fly crim­i­nal with firm prin­ci­ples and “Mor­ris Day-lookin’ hair.” Best of the bunch in­clude Michael Ken­neth Wil­liams as Scat­ter, Priest’s men­tor fig­ure, some­time sup­plier and mar­tial arts in­struc­tor, and es­pe­cially Jason Mitchell, ex­cel­lent in “Mud­bound,” as the com­bustible part­ner Ed­die. In ’72, Ron O’Neal’s Priest said it: “I know it’s a rot­ten game, but it’s the only one The Man left us to play.” Even with the hero shat­ter­ing the bones of a par­tic­u­larly slimy white cop on the take — con­scious pay­back for any num­ber of white-on-black po­lice abuse in­ci­dents cap­tured on video — in the re­make life’s too plush for any­thing to seem all that rot­ten. “Su­per­fly,” a Sony Pic­tures re­lease, is rated R for vi­o­lence and lan­guage through­out, strong sex­u­al­ity, nu­dity, and drug con­tent. Run­ning time: 116 min­utes. ★★½

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