'Supacell' review: It's Boyz vs the Hoods in this sharply-assembled romp


'Just what I always wanted my first superhero act to be – a face-off with a static electricity discharge.' Photos: Handout

Forget altruistic save-the-cheerleader-save-the-world tropes popularised in filmed superhero stories over recent years.Supacell, a six-episode urban tale set in South London from rapper/producer/director/screenwriter Rapman, has a point: more often than not, wouldn't people who suddenly get abilities use them just to improve their immediate circumstances?

That's how it goes when five seemingly unconnected Black people in London suddenly develop abilities far beyond those of regular folk. There's a reason for this, tied to the title, but it's best left to viewers to get to that part spoiler-free.

Delivery guy Michael (Tosin Cole, Doctor Who) finds he can teleport and travel through time; struggling ex-con Andre (Eric Kofi-Abrefa) gains super-strength; unassuming nurse Sabrina (Nadine Mills) develops telekinesis; small-time weed dealer Rodney (Calvin Demba) acquires super-speed; and petty thug Tazer (Josh Tedeku) can turn invisible.

Andre cracks open an ATM with an angry punch to get cash for child support (and to impress his teenage son). Rodney makes deliveries at above the speed of sound to boost his business. Sabrina helps out her sis when she runs afoul of a thug; and Tazer... well, suffice to say he's reprehensible and a punk in many senses of the word, and his invisibility helps with aspects of thuggery that he otherwise sucks at (aside from glowering at people from under his hoodie).

It's Michael upon whose shoulders the task of assembling these urban avengers/defenders falls. Again, it's not for a particular greater good, but he comes back from an inadvertent trip to the future convinced that forming the "team" is the only way to keep his social worker fiancee Dionne (Adelayo Adedayo) safe.

Tazer wanted to be like Moses from 'Attack The Block', but soon realised he was actually a spiritual cousin of Taserface. From that other movie with space critters.Tazer wanted to be like Moses from 'Attack The Block', but soon realised he was actually a spiritual cousin of Taserface. From that other movie with space critters.

There's much more to it: are those imposing figures in black hoods hunting down gifted individuals connected to the shadowy organisation monitoring the city for traces of superbeings, clearly for sinister purposes? Brrrr.

(You know you've watched too many Guy Ritchie movies when you get a long shot of a silhouetted figure silently watching a bank of screens and you think, "Hey, that's Eddie Marsan". Then the camera pulls around and heck, it IS Eddie Marsan.)

Supacell takes pains to keep it real, mainly in the ways its characters react and interact. No 180º turns, no inexplicable out-of-character behaviour simply to suit a situation, just believable folk taking care of business.

It's all for the sake of building up these characters to the point that we start caring about what happens to them next, despite our initial aversion to some of them.

'I donno about this Avengers stuff, bruh, cos right now we look more like Avengees.' - Photos: Handout'I donno about this Avengers stuff, bruh, cos right now we look more like Avengees.' - Photos: Handout

At times though, it can get a bit wearying. After a reasonably engrossing first episode, the show's sophomore instalment spends way too much time with Tazer's petty gangsta squabbles and nearly turned me off.

And I lost count of how many times I wanted to just reach out and strangle Michael for getting tongue-tied whenever a flustered Dionne asked him to explain what was going on. But then I figured, heck, he's just blundering through life and circumstances like all of us are at any given time.

That's where the strengths of Supacell's writing (most of it by Rapman himself, who also directed over half the season) shine through: when it makes the unlikeable somehow relatable; when it telegraphs impending coincidences but puts enough of a spin on them to placate the jaded viewer; and weaves its disparate threads into a frantic finale that will leave you slack-jawed.

After all that, it even has enough juice for a couple of intriguing pre-credits stingers that hint at an electrifying second season. It's on the notorious N, though, so don't bank on one just yet – for now, just have a blast with this sharply-assembled romp.


All six episodes of Supacell are available to stream on Netflix.

7.5 10

Summary:

Save the social worker, save the ... wedding?

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