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Shaft (2019) - Movie Review

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Shaft (2019)

The #metoo movement wouldn’t stand a chance in John Shaft’s world. The most badass private detective to ever don a leather duster gets a modern-day update in Tim Story’s revisit to the Shaft franchise that kicked off the blaxploitation movement back in the early ’70’s.

If there is one thing we’ve always known about the legendary locked-and-loaded character whose cool graced the big and small screen back in the ‘70s and again in 2000, it is that he never really moved forward with the times. His unbridled machismo and outmoded ideas of the roles women play in society have remained dangerously stagnant. But that’s also why we love him so much. After all, who can’t have a fond affection for a character who believes it is his duty to please the booty?

"well deserving of its R rating that includes pervasive language, violence, sexual content, some drug material and brief nudity. Right on!"


That’s the angle Story and screenwriters Kenya Barris and Alex Barnow take in this new film that oddly shares the exact same name as previous versions, yet acts as a half-sequel half-reboot to those earlier films. Shaft (2019) brings the franchise into the 21st century by spanning three generations of the Shaft family and leans heavily into the self-aware notion that the world we now live in is much different from the one where the franchise began. In addition, Story injects much more heart and humor into this version. As a result, Shaft (2019) is a much better film those earlier ones.

It opens with a flashback to 1989 Harlem where we see John Shaft II (Samuel L. Jackson) involved in a violent shootout. Once the bad guys are quickly dispatched, wife Maya (Regina Hall), having reached her breaking point with violence that surrounds their lives, disappears with their infant son, John Jr., a.k.a. J.J.

We then pick up the story in modern day as J.J. (Jessie T. Usher) is now a strait-laced, by-the-book MIT graduate working for the FBI as a data analyst. At first glance, J.J. isn’t much of a chip off the old block. In fact, he’s a mirror opposite of his pop: clean-cut, well-mannered, and always dressed in plaid shirts and a tie. When tragedy strikes one of J.J.’s friends, he knows he must reluctantly enlist the help of his street-wise father.

What follows is an overly-complicated action/mystery plot that sees the father/son team become entangled with a bunch of bad people doing bad things. The details of it all don’t matter and neither does the fact that they burn a lot of screen time trying to explain what is happening. We didn’t come here for the plot. We came for John Shaft and all that that implies. And boy, does Jackson deliver. "You're the one being misogynistic, I never even mentioned her gender! I'm an equal-opportunity ass-whooper!" He’s certainly not as nimble and fleet-of-foot as he once was, but there’s J.J. and his newly discovered FBI training for that. Together, the two plow their way through baddies like a rake through Jheri Curl on the way to discovering who is behind the death of J.J.’s friend.

The film’s hook is how Story and team deliver a Shaft that blends old with new. Well, that and its ace in the hole: Jackson. Most of the film’s humor and nearly all of its enjoyment comes from the commentary on generational differences as both J.J. and his father learn that they each have something to teach the other. And of course we get a full pedal-to-metal Jackson and a heavy dose of the obligatory elements of the film’s blaxploitation roots: things like fast cars, machine guns, cursing, babes, booze, and drugs.

Just as things begin to dip into Scooby-Doo territory, in steps the Godfather of cool himself, Richard Roundtree who starred in the original ‘70s originals and who riffs on how good he still looks.Shaft (2019)

Is Shaft a great film? No, it isn’t. Shut yo’ mouth! But we didn’t expect that now, did we? This is pure popcorn summer action fun and to expect more than that is placing far too much confidence in the genre. Shaft is an entertaining father/son story that comes at us just in time for Father’s Day. Nearly every frame is stuffed with plenty for everyone to like, especially action lovers, Jackson fans, lovers of the originals, and those who appreciate a more humorous take on the franchise.

Shaft is a lot of fun for the entire family. Check that! Don’t take the kids or anyone with heightened sensitivity to non-p.c. shenanigans as it is well deserving of its R rating that includes pervasive language, violence, sexual content, some drug material and brief nudity. Right on!

3/5 stars

Shaft (2019)

Blu-ray

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Shaft (2019)

MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language, violence, sexual content, some drug material and brief nudity.
Runtime:
111 mins
Director
: Tim Story
Writer:
Kenya Barris, Alex Barnow
Cast:
Samuel L. Jackson, Jessie T. Usher, Richard Roundtree.
Genre
: Action | Comedy
Tagline:
More Shaft than you can handle.
Memorable Movie Quote: "You're the one being misogynistic, I never even mentioned her gender! I'm an equal-opportunity ass-whooper!"
Theatrical Distributor:
New Line Cinema
Official Site: https://www.warnerbros.com/movies/shaft-2019/
Release Date:
June 14, 2019
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available.
Synopsis: John Shaft Jr., a cyber security expert with a degree from MIT, enlists his family's help to uncover the truth behind his best friend's untimely death.

Shaft (2019)

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