If you really want to know what Shaft was like, just watch the trailer. As I have done with all my reviews, it is conveniently located at the top of this entry. I actually do not need to say anything further, but for form’s sake I will go ahead and write my thoughts. Oh, I am going to spoil the heck out of this film.
To be honest, this is the first installment of Shaft I have seen, but my “fans” on Facebook voted for me to see it over Men in Black: International. I did not see any of the originals starring Richard Roundtree (John Shaft Sr.), I did not see the 2000 reboot with Samuel L. Jackson (John Shaft), but here I was in the theater to see JJ Shaft (Jessie T. Usher). That is three Shafts if you are keeping score at home, yet would that not make Jackson’s character “Junior” instead of Usher’s? Then again, I am not a Shaft expert, which sounds really weird to say out of context.
So does my lack of Shaft knowledge disqualify me from writing a review of this movie? I guess so. Regardless, I found this movie to be shallow and predictable, which is why I mentioned the trailer at the beginning. It would also help if you have a working knowledge of any and all stereotypes that are prevalent in our society today. I suppose this is to be expected given how little time a film has to make its point, but it was so eye-rolling throughout my viewing that I am surprised I saw any of it through the whites of my eyes. When the first Shaft films came out in the 1970s, they were part of a sub-genre that came to be known as Black-sploitation, the root word of which is, of course, exploitation.
However, given that this is the 2019 Shaft, we have a whole new set of stereotypes with JJ. What do we know about young professionals from the suburbs? They live in loft apartments with exposed bricks in gentrified neighborhoods. Check for JJ. They are tech savvy. JJ is a data analyst for the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). They do not stick to gender specific roles. Also JJ. But then the worlds collide when the violent, over-sexualizatized, trash talking, inner-city Shaft helps his son track down the murderers of his best friend. In the end, JJ becomes a modern version of his dad, shorn of some of the more colorful language, emphasis on some.
Speaking of stereotypes, Shaft also has all the expected sequences of an action film, including the epic final gun battle between the Shafts three and Gordito (Isach De Bankolé), the bad guy who did stuff. That was purposely vague as was how much of a villain was Gordito. You know it is a bad sign when one of the eldest Shaft roles his eyes at the stated plan of taking down Gordito by saying that they will do “the usual.” Sigh.
My Catholic sensibilities were not offended by Shaft. There was a brief moment of nudity, and a whole lot of cursing and violence, but nothing too over the top. I just tire of derivative plots, though as a film reviewer it is a cross to bear.