Shaft, can you dig it? Yes, I can and yes, I did.
The fifth film in the Shaft franchise, and the first one I have seen, is a multigenerational story introducing John Shaft Jr. – played by Jessie T. Usher. When his friend is mysteriously found dead, Shaft Jr., FBI analyst and beta male, attempts to discover the truth behind his friends “overdose”. However, Shaft Jr. quickly finds out he is going to require help if he is to have any luck in his search and there’s only one person for the job, John Shaft (Samuel L. Jackson), his father. The two make up for lost time and learn from each other throughout their winding investigation.
I’ll start by saying this film is surprisingly hilarious. Never trust a trailer because it made you laugh, too often the film’s funniest moments are thrown in there, but with Shaft, this is not the case; there are plenty of humorous moments not in the trailer that will land with the majority of the audience. And a big factor of this is the film isn’t politically correct. There are jokes and themes which aren’t consistent with a progressive agenda, but who am I to judge if the film had me laughing my ass off? It may shock some this film exists in 2019, but what is comedy other than the subversion of expectations? I will note some references made throughout the movie are tailored to the film’s target demographic, African-Americans, and since I am not part of said target demographic, some quips may have went over my head and may go over yours too (unless, of course, you are part of the target demographic). This is not a criticism, just an observation.
If Samuel L. Jackson is having fun, then I’m having fun; any film where Jackson gets to swing his balls around and do whatever he wants, sign me up. He appears to have not skipped a beat in his nearly 20-year old return to the role of John Shaft. Richard Roundtree, the original John Shaft, may take a while to show up to the party but delivers in his extended cameo. Jessie T. Usher is able to demonstrate gradual development of his character, having clearly changed from where he started to where he finishes. The three generations of Shafts are a dynamic trio.
If I had to give a criticism of the film, I feel it could’ve trimmed some of the runtime while squeezing in some more action and shooting. Otherwise, Shaft is an enjoyable film and I’m glad I caught it. 7.5/10