Review: Shaft

Score: B+

Director: Tim Story

Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Jesse T. Usher, Regina Hall, Alexandra Shipp, Richard Roundtree

Running Time: 111 Minutes

Rated: R

You see this cat Shaft is a bad mother (Shut your mouth).
But I'm talkin' about Shaft (Then we can dig it).

It is rare when a movie that serves as a continuation of an eighteen-year-old film, which itself was a follow-up to a thirty-year-old movie is good, let alone very good.  But here we sit with Shaft, the unexpected threequel that, for all intents and purposes, delivers beautifully.

The film follows FBI analyst John Shaft, Jr. (Jesse T. Usher) who is forced to reunite with his absentee father (Samuel L. Jackson) when his best friend is found dead.  Together they must solve the puzzle to capture the killer or else risk their own lives in the process.

Kenya Barris, creator of ABC’s Black-ish, and Alex Barnow do such a brilliant job of continuing the Shaft legacy, introducing the bad-ass family to a new generation by way of combining old with new.  The film revels in relatable and current social commentary, continually pressing the issue while also drumming up a good number of laughs.

Absentee fathers, single mothers, veterans, and the opioid crisis, Islamophobia - it’s all on the table here.  But unlike other films, Shaftnever ventures to the point of no return.  The audience never feels preached to, rather educated through the form of high comedy.  The story itself is never sacrificed but instead opened up by the edgy narrative, one that is kept grounded by the all too familiar classic Isaac Hayes theme song popping in the background.

Minus Fantastic Four, Tim Story is a tremendous director who delivers high marks for his work on this film.  Strong attention to details allows Shaftto excel as Story pays homage to the original while still pushing the franchise forward.   Even New York City gets its time in the spotlight, becoming an added character to the already full film.

Though the film features a tremendous cast, the brunt of the work rests on the shoulders of Jackson and Usher, both of which show up and dominate.  Portraying two men who are created out of their environment, you can’t help but root for each as they navigate the city streets for a bit of vengeance.  And even if their personalities are near polar opposites, the way they blend together exudes a fragile family dynamic, adding yet another layer to the film’s central arc.  Richard Roundtree rounds out the three-generation trio, and though he doesn’t offer a lot to the film, he is still one bad mother—.

We cannot overlook the female characters, played perfectly by Regina Hall and Alexandra Shipp.  Given a brain and a keen intuition, neither woman is your typical “damsel in distress,” going as far as to poke fun at the “basic” moves made by film actresses.  It is this level of self-awareness that allows Shaftto work as well as it does, and the comedic presence of both ladies only amps up the audience’s overall experience.

But for all the praise I’d be doing a disservice if I didn’t mention that though great, there are parts of the movie that don’t hold up.  Mostly located towards the end of the third act, the story becomes slightly forced as the creative team appears to struggle with how to conclude the story aptly.  It isn’t a huge deal but worth mentioning. Thankfully it doesn’t deter from the overall positive experience.


About Robert Bexar II

Robert Bexar II