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MOVIE REVIEW: Shaft

Shaft, a sequel of sorts to the 2000 film of the same name, exists for one reason and one reason only: for Samuel L. Jackson to hate on millennials, the internet, and the modern world and to prove that Shaft is the man.  This is Jackson’s version of The Mule and though it may not necessarily be in-tune with the times, there are still some funny and exciting moments throughout and Jackson is giving it his all.

John Shaft Jr. (Jessie T. Usher), or JJ, is a cyber security agent for the F.B.I. with a degree from MIT.  When one of his close friends is found dead, JJ enlists the help of his estranged father, John Shaft (Jackson), to solve the crime.  The two navigate New York City together, butting heads on the process of solving cases, fashion, the internet, women, and why Shaft left JJ all those years ago.

For those of you who did not see Clint Eastwood’s The Mule last year, the film featured Clint Eastwood as a 90-year-old drug runner for a Mexican cartel, but the film felt more like an Eastwood venting session, as Eastwood complained constantly about how times aren’t the same and how he isn’t changing.  That’s the same vibe I was getting from Jackson here in Shaft.  As soon as Shaft hits the screen, you can tell that he hasn’t changed one bit.  He had just hooked up with a heavily glittered woman, he starts roasting his son for his skinny jeans and tucked in shirt, questioning his sexuality, and, when JJ takes Shaft to a trap house he discovered, Shaft uses brunt force to get the answers he needs.  JJ, appalled by all of this, continuously informs his dad about what he did wrong and why it is wrong, to which Shaft could not care less.  Shaft continuously does what Shaft does.  He womanizes, uses unethical ways of getting answers, and even has a distain for the internet and modern technology and he even begins to corrupt JJ with these ideas, so much so that by the end of the movie, JJ is rocking the turtleneck and trench coat. Shaft is a movie that isn’t with the times and doesn’t want to be in the times.  It’s a movie that likes how the old days did it and will continue to do it that way because it worked.  It’s a stubborn way, but that’s the way it is.

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Director Tim Story actually does some cool filmmaking stuff here, which was quite the surprise.  What’s most interesting is watching JJ’s world versus Shaft’s world.  JJ’s world seems more glossy and cleaner, representative of his new-age world view and the way he goes about solving crime and living his life.  Shaft’s world, on the other hand, seems grittier, much like how Shaft himself likes it.  This is clear in the two restaurant shoot-outs JJ and Shaft have.  There is a hit out on JJ and Shaft and the two are out to dinner at different restaurants, JJ being out with his crush, Sasha (Alexandra Shipp) and Shaft out with two random women whom Shaft’s ex and JJ’s mom, Maya (Regina Hall, proof she can be great in anything) refers to as Lady Syphilis and Madam Chlamydia.  When the hits take place on our characters, they are shot completely different.  Shaft’s shootout is old school.  It’s fast, raw, and bloody, with Shaft taking down these men one by one by using his great shot, his wits, and knowing where to hide and when to shoot, all while doing it in the coolest way possible.  Meanwhile, JJ’s shootout is hyper-stylized slow-motion shootout set to “Be My Baby” by The Ronettes with little blood being shown.  The final set-piece of the film, which features JJ, turned full Shaft, Shaft, and Shaft’s father (played by the original Shaft, Richard Roundtree, in a moment that drew applause in my theater), the action sequence is a lot like Shaft’s, symbolizing JJ’s full immersion as a Shaft.  It’s a melee of bullets, blood, and violence, just how a Shaft likes it.

Of all the unnecessary sequels coming out in 2019, the film might be the most befuddling.  Having not graced the silver screen since 2000, the fact that we got this movie nineteen years later is pretty wild.  I don’t think anyone was really asking for another Shaft film and I’m kind of amazed any studio green-lit this movie, considering they decided to change nothing about the character of Shaft at all, keeping him a womanizing, gun-toting maniac and even corrupting his modern-thinking son to be the same.  But, we got one, and though it is a film that probably will not exist in a couple months, this is still an entertaining action flick with some funny moments and proof that Shaft still believes he is the baddest man on Earth.

About Kevin Wozniak

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