I will not fault you if you want to see “Shaft” just for the soundtrack, because in that sense, it’s worth it and the same goes for Regina Hall’s (“The Hate U Give”, “Little”, “Support the Girls”) performance, which is explosively awesome from the first scene. Richard Roundtree, the original Shaft, also makes the movie worth a viewing, if just for his small part played to perfection. Not to leave out Samuel L. Jackson, but we already know he’s a bad !#?@.
Just don’t watch this new “Shaft” movie and expect it to be more than the sum of those individual shiny parts.
Three generations of Shaft men appear in “Shaft” this weekend, which is a sequel of sorts to the 2000 version of Shaft, itself a sequel to the 70s blaxpoiltation films starring Richard Roundtree. Those original films were much grittier, but this one is clearly meant to set up a largely Disney-esque franchise for Jessie T. Usher, or Shaft Jr., a nerd-hero FBI data analyst turned private investigator in this film.
Shaft Jr. was taken away from his father as a baby to protect him from his vigilante lifestyle, but years later, when Junior is all grown up, he seeks out his father when his role at the FBI is insufficient in pursuing the truth and some vengeance for his recently murdered best friend. Some generational humor follows when Shaft finds out his millennial son is working for “the man," but when they discover a drug smuggling ring fronted by a charity for military vets was involved, they grab Grandpa and team up for action and laughs, but most of the dialog and situations are watered down and none of it deserves its R rating. As Shaft would say, “Gentrification is a b.”
My inability to draw a direct line between the original spirit of the “Shaft” series and today’s premiere is probably due to the fact that the writers and director of this one weren’t involved in any of the earlier versions, though all have lucrative work on their resumes (“Ride Along," “Fantastic Four”, “Blackish," “The Goldbergs”). Shaft, John Shaft may have a nice ring to it for the future of the franchise and Alexandra Shipp would certainly make a luminous new-world Shaft girl (“Dark Phoenix," “Love, Simon”), but this “Shaft” won’t be surpassing the Bond films anytime soon.