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Directed by John Singleton
Running Time: 1:39
Rated R for strong violence and language.

Cool. In a nutshell, that would explain both the movie Shaft and the character, John Shaft. Violent would also be a good word to use. Cool and violent. There's not much else to say. The plot is paper thin, the characters aren't spectacular (other than Shaft himself). The music rocks, and the sound is very good. So basically you go to see this movie because it's cool, and it's violent.

Samuel L. Jackson is John Shaft. Not to be confused with the original John Shaft played by Richard Roundtree in the original classic film. Jackson's Shaft is the nephew of the original Shaft, a relationship that has nothing to do with the story. In fact there's nothing in the original that has anything to do with the current movie besides the name. Which to me is sort of odd. The original came out in 1971, so most of your core young audience has no idea who the hell Shaft is, so why would they care that Jackson plays the nephew of Roundtree? Just something I thought about before even seeing the movie. So anyway, Shaft is a detective in the NY Police Department. He picks up this case where a white man kills a black man in a racial incident. The white guy, Walter Wade (Christian Bale) manages to get bail on the murder rap, and leaves the country for two years. Then he decides to come back feeling that he can beat the charge because the one witness (Toni Collette) has been scared away. But Shaft isn't going to play that game. So he goes out to try and track down the witness and have her testify against Wade. Along the way Shaft runs into problems with every person imaginable, including members of his own police force and a local Dominican drug lord (Jeffrey Wright).

So what's the plot exactly? I suppose it's supposed to be Shaft trying to get the woman to testify, while Wade wants to try and "shut her up". Having gone to law school, as well as having watched many Law and Order episodes, I had a problem with the story. I didn't think it was that crucial to have her testify, considering Wade had blood on his hands from the murder, I assume there were fingerprints on the weapon, and he basically admitted to the killing to Shaft 30 seconds into the movie. So why is it so important to prosecute him with this woman's testimony? They could have made the case easily without her, in my opinion. So the story to me wasn't all that strong, it was basically an excuse to have Shaft run wild in New York. Oh yeah, at one point Shaft leaves the police force, so most of what he does is as a private citizen. Going around shooting people, threatening street punks, all sorts of things that you and I would be thrown in jail for.

So get over it, you might say. This isn't a movie that's story driven, it's character driven. It's all about John Shaft and how cool he is. And there is no question about that. Samuel L. Jackson is as cool as they come. And even though everything he does would land us in jail, he looks cool doing it. Whether it's getting the ladies or beating up the bad guys, he's always got the right thing to say, and the right attitude to back it up. I loved Busta Rhymes as his friend Rasaan, and I think Christian Bale is a great actor. Jeffrey Wright got a lot of laughs in the movie though because of his extremely strong accent, which worries me for some reason. But his character was very powerful and I did enjoy him. Dan Hedaya playing a corrupt cop is almost something I expect to see. As soon as I saw he was a cop, in the back of my mind I was thinking, well he's going to go bad (and I don't think I'm ruining the movie by giving that away). Vanessa Williams is also in here, although I don't know why. Her role was very small and almost inconsequential. I suppose they needed at least one strong female character in there, so why not throw her in?

Then there was the violence. Now I personally am a big fan of movie violence. Give me a good shootout or fight scene and I'm a happy camper. And there was plenty of gun violence in this movie. At almost every turn someone was getting shot. Hell, by the end of the movie I don't think there was anyone that hadn't been shot. Besides Shaft of course. He's a bad mother... Shut your mouth! Sorry, had to be done sometime... So if you love shoot em ups, you'll dig this flick. And lastly there was the music. If there's one song that can stand the test of time, it's Isaac Hayes' classic theme song. His new version is a very simple remake of the original. No guest stars, no tweaking of the formula, just a straight remake. And having that music play over certain scenes just makes you smile. Because it's so cool.

So overall, I'd say I enjoyed Shaft. The story wasn't strong, but for this kind of movie, that doesn't matter. What matters is that it stars Samuel L. Jackson as that bad muther... shut your mouth! Shaft. Very violent, at times very funny, and most of all, very cool...

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24 in x 34 in

Text Version

reviewed 06/14/00

© 2000 Wolfpack Productions