Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Shaft ★★★★☆

Everyone knows ‘Shaft’ from the ‘70s – originally played by Richard Roundtree, John Shaft was a three-movie hero that all the kids wanted to be. In 2000 came a sequel in which the John Shaft we focus on is now the original Shaft’s nephew, played by Samuel L. Jackson, and now we’ve got an even more modern ‘Shaft’ film… Not exactly a sequel or a reboot, but rather a spin on the original concept of the film. 

This time around its Shaft Jr.’s turn, played by Jesse T. Jr., who is the abandoned son of Jackson’s Shaft, now the son of Roundtree’s Shaft (thankfully the confusion stops there). Shaft Jr. is a caricature of the modern-day male millennial, an FBI data analyst with a strong stance on guns and a love of coconut water. After his friend Karim (Avan Jogia) dies of a heroin overdose that Shaft Jr. and childhood friend Sasha (Alexandra Shipp) suspect is down to something more sinister, Shaft Jr. finds himself now in a world of drug deals and violence, and reluctantly gets back in contact with his Dad as he may be the only one able to help.
You may have already read reviews of ‘Shaft’ to find them filled with claims that it is homophobic, racist, and all sorts of other things down to Samuel L. Jackson’s old-school character. Shaft, again rather caricature-like, is your classic old-fashioned man with the belief that masculinity is down to how many fists you’ve sparred with and women you’ve refused to apologise to. He’s not quite with the times like Shaft Jr. is, seeing homosexuality as perhaps a bit of a weakness and men who aren’t hyper-masculine as slightly defective. This is where many of the jokes come into play, with the two men struggling to see eye-to-eye on a variety of things. I’d hardly call it homophobic though… More highlighting how ridiculous these sorts of beliefs are and showing that are not, in fact, correct like Shaft thinks. 
I’m glad I ignored the reviews and watched the film anyway, as it’s well-written and full of some high-octane scenes that make for great entertainment. Whilst, not all acting is excellent, Samuel L. Jackson makes Shaft his own, getting so into character that it’s hard not to be convinced. It’s classic Jackson, and he sparkles as always. Usher also makes a great Shaft Jr., not overplaying his considered weaknesses and instead embracing his personality and standing strong with his beliefs. Again, I’m not seeing why everyone is so wound up when our protagonist is actually such a positive and modern character. 

The humour, albeit not very politically correct at times, made a refreshing change from some of the films of late, taking me back to those iconic films of the ‘70s and ‘80s that really didn’t hold back. It’s got a sort of ‘Starsky and Hutch’ vibe to it – it’s silly and probably not all that likely in a real-life situation, but each scene is entertaining and a good set of casting helps to bring the story to life and excuse some perhaps unlikely scenarios that film-realists might not gel with so much. 
If you like a good action/comedy film then I’d recommend this one for lots of laughs and some good old-fashioned conflict, too. If you’re easily offended then maybe steer clear… No film will please everyone.
Hannah Read

Shaft at CeX

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