Reviewed by Joe Soria
In an era where political correctness has become the center of people's
actions comes the anti-PC, classic blaxploitation hero John Shaft. He comes
just at the right time. A time that things are very touchy, the line is about
to be broken. Conflict is at hand. Shaft will cure with one good smack to the
head a couple of strong words including fucker and other versions of that
word. It finds humor in those slurs that would start a war in our current
original Shaft, released in 1971, was the fist true African American
film to break into the mainstream market and produce hefty profits. Many tried
and failed, until sexy private dick that gets all the chicks came along. Now
in the year 2000, this ultra hip reincarnation of the series has come along
and has Shaft fully rejuvenated. The new John Shaft (Samuel L. Jackson) is a
different kind of man, the nephew of the original Shaft played by Richard
Roundtree. He’s a career cop with a big reputation, not a private detective
like his uncle. Roundtree puts in a nice cameo in this film.
Samuel L. Jackson still provides the character all the slickness and
smooth moves that Roundtree originated.
centers around its protagonist's reputation of a man who defends women from
abuse and his long memory. The film has two villains that showcase these
attributes. Walter Williams (American Psycho's Christian Bale) a son of a
wealthy real estate developer who thinks he can get away with anything, this
time even murder. Walter can be considered most highly as a yuppie with a bad
attitude. Shaft is set to give him a nice attitude adjustment. The other
villain in the film is a Latino slumlord/ drug dealer named Peoples (Jeffrey
The best scene in the film is when the cocky Williams comes to Peoples’ neck
of the city, a place where Walter does not have his stature. He needs a female
witness (Toni Collette) in his case found and taken care of. The two men have
a very witty chat. Peoples wants Williams to help him get his drug dealing
foot in the door. Williams continues to deny him this opportunity.
The film has a more updated flashy style but it's heart is still with the tone
of the original. At times the gun cartridge shoots more bullets than the gun
can actually carry but otherwise the story is believable and not over the top.
Without some over the top, ultimate over the top battle between the good and
the evil fight it would not be Shaft.
features some interesting and unexpected plot surprises but like most summer
films it gives into some overtly obvious twists. Samuel L. Jackson's portrayal
of the icon pulls the whole thing through easing you through the tough parts
and makes it all clear and level by the end.
This flick features a plethora of supporting performances
by actors ranging from Dan Hedaya to ex-Miss America Vanessa L. Williams to
the original Shaft Richard Roundtree. Along with the comeback of the original
actor who played Shaft is the film’s classic original theme by Isaac Hayes,
always a favorite movie theme of mine. What other famous movie theme can you
think of that the singer doesn’t really do any singing?
Shaft is a man who has it all; he represents the perfect man. Even when things
are looking down, like when Bale escapes his grasps, he always has his friends
to back him up. Even though in theory, he's his own one-man army. He’s a bad
mother but he’s also a strong role model even with that potty mouth of his.
Of all of Shaft’s friends and helpers, Busta Rhymes probably gives in the
best performance as Shaft's sidekick/driver/Shaft's toy, who says he owes
Shaft one but he ends up giving him more than one favor. Maybe we could have
another rapper turned actor on our hands, “The Busta of Belle Air” or
Busta Rhymes in Wild, Wild West II. Hey, it could happen. Busta gives the film
a lot of its humor and slickness.
The rest of that humor comes from Samuel L. Jackson's
perfect Shaft interpretation. Samuel L. Jackson’s in Pulp Fiction form.
Corny one-liners that would sound bad recited by anyone else sound great
coming out of his mouth. Jackson is Shaft.
The film is brief, clocking in at 100 minutes, but you feel satisfied when
it's done. I'm confident you'll
feel "that's enough Shaft for one day” and you’ll be happy you
spent your time to see it.
3 out of 4 Stars
Stars: Samuel L. Jackson, Christian Bale, Jeffrey Wright, Busta Rhymes,
Vanessa L. Williams, Dan Hedaya, Richard Roundtree
Directed by: John Singleton
Written by: Richard Price
Running Time: 100 minutes
Rated R for language, nudity, and heavy violence content.
the Shaft theme, remastered. It's a necessity.
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