This is, of course, a remake of the classic film from the 70s that kicked off the beginning of the blaxploitation craze that followed for the next few years. Updated to the 90s with a bigger budget, a well-known actor in Samuel L. Jackson, and the same classic funk soundtrack by Isaac Hayes, the chore of being good seems dismal considering how many times the original SHAFT was raped over the years by far inferior knockoffs. Can Singleton pull it off, especially since he hasn't made a successful film since BOYZ-N-THE-HOOD?
SHAFT isn't that far removed from the original in that it was relatively small in scope, dealing with two-bit thugs fighting over who gets to be the big fish in the pond. In this we have Det. John Shaft investigating the killing of a young black man seemingly at the hands of a punk rich white kid, and who uses his daddy's vast wealth and power as a judge to hide behind the law. Only one witness to the crime exists in the form of Diane, a bartender in the bar the events unfold in. She fingers Walter (the racist in question) but goes into hiding when called to testify for fear of her life. Walter meanwhile has joined forces with Peoples, the crook du jour in the Bronx, and together they work with corrupt cops to try to take the case down, leaving Shaft to play a one-man wrecking ball to their ministrations.
definitely nothing new. It's basically an updated homage to a keynote
film for African-Americans, but doesn't break into any new territory
of it's own. In a way, this old-school style of filmmaking does make
the film endearing, and Singleton knows his subject chapter and verse
in terms of style and substance. Like many of the films from which
SHAFT draws inspiration, little sense can be made of why Shaft seems
to live the high life on a small cop salary in the inner city. He has
his own chauffer, sports Armani gear, and enough extra cash to handle
the case after quitting the force for a good while. Well, I suppose
none of this matters since you can't be a "badass" and be "broke as a
joke" at the same time, so some suspension of disbelief is in order.
SHAFT does come close to being as entertaining as the original, and
does have it's moments every once in a while, but for the most part
it just is too pedestrian to take things to a llevel of genuine
excitement. Fans of the original film will be pleased at the new
treatment, especially seeing Richard Roundtree in a cameo role as
well as the familiar theme music. Most others may be mystified at why
this was remade, since Shaft was an archetype that has been remade in
bigger, badder and bolder roles since 1971. Worthwhile but
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