This was more of what I was expecting in this Blaxploitation-a-thon; it wasn’t exact, but it was a lot closer than the previous two films got. Superfly, oddly enough, was directed by Gordon Parks, Jr., the son of Gordon Parks, director of Shaft. The two share a common vision for what they want with their films, but go about it in two different ways. Where Shaft was more all about the man himself, and everything else was thrown by the wayside, Superfly takes its strong black man protagonist, puts him in a story, then focuses way more on the story and the culture than on the man.
The story this time is about a cocaine dealer in the big city, looking to get one last big score in and then retire from the dirty business for good. Naturally, things don’t go the way he planned, and it’s up to him and his bruthas to put everything back in its place. This one was much more akin to Shaft than Sweetback; urban city-scape setting, modest but competent production values, and an actual story, rather than just a smattering of events smushed together. As I mentioned in the intro, though, the story of this one always seems to take precedence over the main character, and now that I’ve seen a film like this and can compare it with Shaft, I understand a little better why that one focused on the strong protagonist so much; when it doesn’t, like Superfly, it just doesn’t seem to work as well. You don’t get behind Priest, the protagonist, as much as you do Shaft, because he isn’t the overbearing personality that the latter is; he’s just a product of the storyline. If you’re looking for another Shaft here, you’ll probably end up disappointed, but if you’re looking for a film like Shaft but more story-oriented, this might be more up your alley.
Really, this was so like Shaft that the two could be blood brothers, so it raised the question of why both made the list when only one would’ve done it, and I’d have gone with the obvious choice. This has little to offer that Shaft doesn’t already put on the table; it’s just a different side of the die, is all. It was decent, and the technicals were a hell of a lot better than Sweetback; not to mention the score was damn fine. But all in all, this just didn’t give me enough of anything different or new to warrant watching it all, which is probably more of a consequence of me watching all three of these back to back more than anything. This’ll offer you a sweet taste of the whole blaxploitation scene, but if you’ve already had such a taste, this will likely not sate your appetite any further.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10