Superfly

NEW YORK — Going only by its title, kids may mistake “Superfly” (Columbia) for the latest Marvel or DC Comics-based adventure involving a mutant. But the AARP set will recall director Gordon Park Jr.’s 1972 blaxploitation feature “Super Fly,” perhaps best remembered today for Curtis Mayfield’s soundtrack (“Freddy’s Dead,” etc.).

Trevor Jackson and Michael K. Williams star in a scene from the movie “Superfly.” The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. (CNS photo/Sony Pictures Entertainment)

In updating that film, Director X (born Julien Christian Lutz) shifts the setting from Harlem to Atlanta, viewed by some as the current capital of African-American culture. But the result is an uninspiring experience cinematically that’s also ethically unacceptable for viewers of any age.

Smooth, successful cocaine dealer Youngblood Priest (Trevor Jackson) aims to increase his sales so he can get out of the business. But a series of complications hinder his plan.

His hotheaded partner, Eddie (Jason Mitchell), commits various blunders. There’s conflict with the Snow Patrol, a gang of competing pushers led by Fat Freddy (Jacob Ming-Trent).

Priest’s once close relationship with his mentor and supplier, Scatter (Michael Kenneth Williams), breaks down when Priest goes around him to deal directly with scheming Mexican drug lord Adalberto Gonzalez (Esai Morales). And things get even trickier for him once he draws the unwanted attention of a pair of corrupt white cops, Det. Mason (Jennifer Morrison) and Officer Franklin (Brian Durkin).

Alex Tse’s script tolerates rather than fully justifying Priest’s life of crime, presenting it as the only avenue to success open to him as an African-American. It also, from the opening scene onward, portrays him as averse to violence, showing how he leverages his skills at intimidation to keep the bullets from flying. He also points out, fairly enough, the hypocrisy of the church-going gangsters he’s confronting.

Interludes of gory gunplay, however, though brief, are unnecessarily graphic, while a sequence depicting the group sex Priest engages in with his two cohabiting girlfriends, Georgia (Lex Scott Davis) and Cynthia (Andrea Londo), is essentially pornographic. That’s not to mention scenes in a strip club that go beyond merely establishing an aspect of Priest’s supposedly glamorous lifestyle.

The climactic and brutal beating administered to a character who has previously gunned down an unarmed black man, moreover, seems calculated to appeal to the audience’s most visceral instincts.

The film contains graphic bloody violence, aberrant sexual behavior, rear and upper female nudity, about a half-dozen profanities, a couple of milder oaths and pervasive rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.