The signature line goes like this, ‘Shaft is a bad….’ this is a family publication so there is no way that I can finish the line but if you are a fan of the Shaft franchise then you know how it goes.
The latest installation has Samuel L Jackson (Shaft), Jessie T Usher (John Shaft Jr), Regina Hall (Maya Babanikos) and Richard Roundtree (John Shaft Sr) amongst others telling a new story.
Shaft is 1h 51min and is classified as an action, comedy and crime movie. It is Rated R for pervasive language, violence, sexual content, some drug material and brief nudity.
John Shaft is a fictional character who was created by screenwriter Ernest Tidyman and was first played on the screen by Richard Roundtree in the original 1971 film and in its four sequels Shaft’s Big Score! (1972) followed by Shaft in Africa (1973), Shaft (2000) and the current instalment Shaft (2019).
BASED IN HARLEM
The movie is based in Harlem and is a largely African American Bondesque type of story with Shaft being a legend in the neighbourhood for getting justice for citizens who cannot rely on the police for help.
He is a vigilante who has a very tenuous relationship with the police who see him as a renegade out to disrupt the peace instead of keeping it.
Shaft is a private investigator in Harlem who hasn’t seen his son in 25 years until one day when John Shaft Jr shows up at his door asking for his help in solving a murder puzzle.
Their father-son relationship is non-existent at worst and fragile at best.
It means that they have to tolerate one another while trying to solve the case.
It soon becomes very clear to John Shaft Jr why his mum shielded him from contact with his father. Shaft does not suffer any opposition to his questions and isn’t shy to use force to get his answers, he is his own law and this often clashes with his son’s methods who is a stickler for following the rules.
Shaft is reminiscent of the James Bond franchise with the big differences being that the former isn’t working for the government but for himself and he doesn’t have any fancy gadgets to work with.
He is quite the ladies’ man just like Bond and this gets him in trouble a few times.
The storytelling is slow. The focus on the emotional aspect is compelling as John Shaft Jr comes to terms with meeting his biological father and facing his feelings about that.
However, I must say that compared to other Shaft movies, I found this one very boring and average. There was nothing new and it was a struggle watch and I sat through to the end mostly out of brand loyalty.
It was refreshing seeing Richard Roundtree, looking as energetic as ever and there was a sense of handing the baton to the younger Shaft to carry on the family tradition.
The soundtrack as expected is good with a blend of both the old and new funky songs. The theme song is easily identifiable and it stands out. It won the composer, the legendary Isaac Hayes an Oscar for Best Original Song in 1972.
Shaftis a movie that served as a channel for black pride and power. It cast a black actor in a lead role when it first came out, which was hugely significant back then.
It celebrates a lot of black culture, fashion, Ebonics and it’s part and parcel of modelling the cool black identity.
To put it in more familiar terms, it was the Black Panther for that era.
The movie gained popularity when it first came out because it showcased diversity in Hollywood that was sorely lacking.
Black audiences could finally see one of their own on screen, with a strong story and cast and representing themselves in an authentic manner.
MORE ABOUT FAMILY
The latest instalment isn’t very much focused about race as the previous movies, but it is more about family and it tackles the topic of absentee fathers which is a hot one in the black community and what effect it can have on young men.
Shaft is a successful franchise that is here to stay and will forever be warmly embraced.