In the 1970's, Richard Roundtree stepped into the shoes of Shaft and became the first major black hero. Now, in the next century, it is only fitting that one of today's most prominent black figures, Samuel L. Jackson, takes over in an update of Shaft.
A black man is murdered outside a restaurant by a racist millionaire (Christian Bale, who almost resembles his persona in American Psycho) and the only witness (Toni Collette) slips out the back door, afraid for her life. The millionaire, Walter Williams, also skips town. Two years later, when he returns, it appears that he will get off scotch free unless the witness testifies against him, so it is a scramble for John Shaft (Jackson) and the bad guys to get to her first. Of course, they get to her at the same time to have some action.
Shaft is a marvelous mix of action, suspense, comedy, drama, and adventure all rolled into one. While Jackson never gets under the covers with any beautiful women, unfortunately, his stubborn attitude makes for great dialogue and unsuspecting action; you never know what he's going to do next.
This is probably a good time to note that I have never seen any of the original Shafts, although I will definitely check some out now.
Jackson seems very fluid as the original John Shaft's nephew, and Richard Roundtree even appears in several scenes to help him along. Vanessa Williams, Toni Collette, and Christian Bale all do equally superb jobs, and it is pretty amusing trying to figure out what Jeffrey Wright is saying. The story is equally impressive, although there are a few slow scenes. When Bale and Wright are conversing, it is hard to determine what has been accomplished. However, there are also some good action scenes, including the climax which has tons of shooting and car chases.
There are only a few small flaws here and there, such as no sex and the believability factor around the NYPD's violence. Shaft seems pretty free to do whatever he wants and the cops don't seem to mind; the cops even seem overly brutal at times. Oh well.
Shaft is an entertaining movie to watch and one of the better action movies to come out so far this year. It might not deliver ten times out of ten, but comes pretty close.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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