Not fly at all.
Synopsis: Cocaine kingpin Youngblood Priest realizes that it’s time to get out of the game after surviving a violent attack from a crazed rival. Hoping for one last score, Priest and his partner travel to Mexico to arrange a deal. The career criminal now finds himself trying to outmaneuver the cartel, two corrupt police officers and all the double-crossers that threaten his path to freedom. (Rovi)
Starring: Trevor Jackson, Jason Mitchell, and Michael Kenneth Williams
Writer: Alex Tse
Director: Director X.
Rating: 18A (Canada)/R (United States)
Running Time: 116mins
For those who don’t know, this film is actually a remake of a 1972 blaxploitation film of the same name. If there was a way to describe this new film, it would be an extended rap (fitting since it was directed by a famed music video director) video so you can expect plenty of style and no substance over its almost 2 hour running time. The film was definitely 15-20 minutes too long, however, it’s nowhere near the biggest problem here.
A lot of rap videos perpetuate certain gangster stereotypes and this film embraced them by filling it to the brim with the most despicable, bordering on caricaturish, characters that were too over the top to be even remotely believable. The fact that these characters lacked any redeeming qualities whatsoever gave us little reason to care about them (unless you’re into those kinds of characters).
The film played out in a very original and predictable way while being derivative of many standard crime dramas. The story itself was about an ambitious cocaine kingpin named Youngblood Priest (Jackson) who was living the life until he started looking to get out of the drug game after an incident reminded him of how he was losing his touch and the dangers of his way of life. His big plan to get out was to go even deeper by working with the Mexican cartel run by Adalberto Gonzalez (Esai Morales) to ensure his and his two girlfriends’ (you read that correctly) freedom.
Unsurprisingly, getting out of the drug game would prove to be easier said than done (because his plan didn’t make sense though he didn’t seem in much of a rush) as his exit plan opened him up to new threats from the likes of rival gangs, including a comically jealous member named Juju (Kaalan Walker), comically corrupt and coincidentally racist police officers (Jennifer Morrison and Brian F. Durkin), and his former mentor Scatter (Williams). The film occasionally stumbled from the weight of all of these subplots before nearly crumbling by the end.
Priest himself was a very contrived character who was always managed to be one step ahead of everyone else and always had an answer for everything. The film wanted us to root for him but it was just difficult to care about him, let alone anyone else, at any point. The sheer ridiculousness of the characters and story was next to impossible to overcome and made the film a chore to watch while inducing plenty of eye rolls moments especially when Priest would deliver a series of deep monologues that never seemed to fit with the rest of the overly stylish story.
The dialog did not do anyone any favors as well. Not only was it incredibly cheesy at times, it was hard to believe that characters would talk like that. Just like the dialog, the film was only interested in exploring the characters on a superficial level, only being concerned about wealth and status. Despite the repetitive rap video look, the film was competently shot except for the action sequences. Due to some mediocre editing and an excessive use of slo-mo, the action sequences were choppy and tough to follow.
The acting was decent across the board in spite of the mediocre script. Jackson was decent as Priest but it was difficult to ever take him seriously due to his young age and his hair proved to be a major distraction as well. Mitchell was fine as Priest’s right hand man Eddie. Williams brought plenty of menace to Scatter as he has done several times before in limited screen time.
Overall, this was a mediocre crime drama that was all style and no substance. It’s appeal will be limited but its ridiculously heavy story full of despicable characters which ultimately sends the wrong message that will turn off some viewers as they will be busy rolling their eyes.