Going in I didn’t know WHAT to expect. A remake? A sequel? The ads made it look silly and ridiculous. Like not so much a remake as a big screen addaptation of the Shaft theme song.
But then I never thought Shaft was the god damn word of the lord or anything. He’s a cool character and I like his work and what he accomplishes with the ladies but I never thought his pictures had the same emotional depth of Superfly or The Mack or Blacula. Maybe it’s because those are movies about outlaws instead of a law enforcement figure like a private eye. Or maybe not. I think you kind of had to be black at that time to know what it meant to finally see a black James Bond character like John Shaft. But at the time, just as now, I was a white man.
So I was open to some noodling and fiddling with the Shaft character, but to my surprise it is a surprisingly faithful update with hardly any shenanigans. It is a pretty serious story of Shaft trying to catch a racist murderer rich boy bail jumper played by none other than the American Psycho from the film American Psycho starring Patrick Bateman. The tone of the picture is a very strange and enjoyable cross between gritty police stories like Clockers and the Homicide television program and the more corny ’70s tv shows like CHiPs. So the violent scenes are grim and disturbing but you still got a foot chase or two with Shaft chasing a dude up and down fire escapes fueled only by wah wah guitars.
The reason I like this picture is mostly the ’70s feel. The only Isaac Hayes song they used is the main theme, but the score is all extrapolated from the style of that piece. And Shaft is a character with a combination of qualities you just don’t see all at once anymore. He is the guy who always looks cool, always knows how to trick somebody or kick somebody’s ass something good, is single and open to sharing his charms with many ladies, and who also is sensitive and supportive to the point of sainthood. During the court room scene, he is sitting behind the mother of the victim, rubbing her shoulders and telling her everything is gonna be okay. You almost think he is a guardian angel. (read the rest of this shit…)
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.