Thursday, February 16, 2012

Superfly T.N.T.

Superfly T.N.T.  (1973)

Dir: Ron O'Neil

IMDB Rating: 4.5 out of 10

Ron O'Neil reprises his role as the Blaxploitation Icon Priest in this self directed sequel to one of the most popular Afro-Centric pieces of cinema history. Sadly however, this one in no way lives up to the legendary status of it's predecessor.

              Several years after the events in the first film, Priest has relocated to Rome with his lady friend Georgia to live a somewhat more legitimate lifestyle as Priest has grown tired of his old Hustling ways. However he proves you cannot teach an old dog new tricks as he quickly finds himself in a group of local big rigs for weekly high stakes poker games. Elsewhere in Dubay, West Africa a group of revolutionaries are ambushed while transporting weapons to their headquarters. Dr.Sonko one of the representatives of this revolutionary army is in Rome and contacts Matty, The head of the poker games in hopes to trade some uncut diamonds for cash in order to replace his arms. Matty not wanting to get involved is quick to deny Sonko's requests. After a brief run in with priest, Sonko becomes intrigued with the man and his street savvy ways, as he heads out to get some Intel on the former New York Drug Peddler. After realizing that priest may have just the money for his cause he approaches Priest with the same proposal, However Priest says he is out of the game and is trying to get his head straight and live a square life after his years on the streets. Priest is now too busy hanging with his new found upper echelon friends such as his gambling buddies and Jerome (Robert Guillaume) a novelist Georgia had introduced him to. After Sonko hits a nerve calling Priest the worst kind of slave and convincing him of how exactly the African revolution effects him as well, Priest does some soul searching and heads to Africa.

Upon returning home Priest decides to give in to Sonko's demands but will not put up his own cash , so he heads to Matty's for one more big game of cards. After pulling a all nighter in a very intense game that ends with just Matty and Priest left, Priest bluffs his way to Matty owing him some serious cash. When Matty admits he cannot pay up front and needs sometime to pay it off Priest offers a negotiation in exchange for the firepower Sonko is looking for he will wipe the debt clean. Not wanting to break his bank Matty accepts.
Priest relays the good news to Sonko but, it appears the old man is a bit of a hustler himself as he let's Priest know his services are not quite done yet as he needs help getting the arms across the borders and through customs. Priest being the smooth talker he is , he manages to get the arms through without a hitch but the problems lay in getting into the country as the military guards all ports. Priest of course has all bases covered as he heads out with the shipment and the first one is filled with nothing but fruit and other food as the military ambushes the shipment to find nothing illegal. Dubay's General does not bite the bait and Priest is taking into custody for questioning when it is found that he is in with Sonko. The General and his men beat Priest pretty bad during interrogation but his lips are sealed. Sonko plans to meet the General and speak of these arms coming in to the country and meanwhile Priest manages to escape his cell with some crafty electrician work.
As priest free's himself we are lead to believe that the shipment went as planned as we  see Priest arrive back in Rome to meet Georgia and presumably start the family she so desperatley wants.

Sometimes when a film tries to fit too much into itself it truly accomplishes nothing, this is what this film suffers from. A big majority of the film is about Priest wanting to have a normal life and him meeting new positive friends but then those unique and somewhat interesting stories and set pieces get thrown to the background almost entirely in a matter of seconds so they could shoe horn in the African Revolution plot. We meet Jordan who seems like a interesting character and the dialogue between he and Priest is fun and entertaining , then he just disappears as Priest gives in and heads to Africa. Also the big pay off finale is so rushed it really has no impact and is quite a anti climatic finish to what could have been a good movie if it would have stuck with one story or the other. Honestly I think a film about Priest cleaning up and perhaps writing his own book about his life on the streets while having some up's and down's in the process would have been a much more interesting film to me than the over the top crime drama they attempted to make this one. Sadly some films should just be left alone and not touched or given a sequel treatment, Superfly is one of these films. Superfly was a success because it was a bigger budgeted film, the story and characters were endearing although at times over the top and the soundtrack by Curtis Mayfield  and forever will be widely considered a Musical masterpiece. This sequel just completely lacked everything that made the first one so great and that is just a depressing thing to see. This film just comes off as a quick attempt at a cash in for Ron O'Neil to come back to his careers high point in hopes of lightning striking twice and even with the great cast including some talented performers such as Robert Gulluame (Benson) and Roscoe Lee Brown (Uptown Saturday Night/Benson/Jumpin' Jack Flash) this bolt completely missed the mark. Even more unsettling is this was not the final installment to the series as in the early 90's Return of Superfly was released, I have yet to see that film but I remember seeing it on shelves of local video stores as a child and just being furious that one , They would even dare making such a film after I saw and loved the original and two, Ron O'Neil was not in the role of Priest....I am not sure I will be checking that one out but chances are someday I will and I am sure it is even worse than this one and I just hate seeing my favorite films being run into the ground like this. If you need some Priest in  your life stick with the original which is indeed a classic and deserves it's reputation among the great films in Black cinema , Do Not even Bother with this one.

Fun Factor:2
Overall: 2.5 out of 10

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