Shaft Movie Review
The new Shaft is as limp as an overcooked noodle, an insult to everyone involved, especially Richard Roundtree who returns to see his franchise transformed into a cheesy, unfunny, and painful-to-watch comedy.
Back in 2000, Samuel L. Jackson starred in a refreshed version of the franchise—confusingly also called Shaft—and turned out to be pretty damn good in the role. The movie, directed by the late John Singleton, was an entertaining, action-packed crime thriller that featured Christian Bale as the villain.
Skip ahead nearly two decades later and Jackson returns, looking about the same but trapped in a poorly written caricature of the same role. In this new version of Shaft, directed by Tim Story—whose only good movie was literally 2002’s Barbershop—John Shaft is a shell of his former self, a cynical and outdated old man who says outdated, crass things and shoots people. It’s embarrassing really, as is the movie.
The really unfortunate decision is to shove Jackson into a supporting role in lieu of his onscreen son JJ Shaft, an FBI data analyst who apparently doesn’t know how to use a gun nor has any concept of fighting crime, whether it be the lawful way or his elder Shaft’s unique approach. Played awfully by Jessie T. Usher, JJ Shaft is one of the worst characters put to screen in a long time, a timid, unintentionally unfunny individual who has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. He’s obnoxious and a pushover, and by the end of the movie the filmmakers apparently seems to believe they’ve established him as the next franchise starrer, even though he’s still just as useless as he was two hours earlier.
Even if you can look past all that, the story is dreadful—the plot revolves around a suspicious drug overdose and some nefarious, one-dimensional villains you will instantly forget—and the action is nearly nonexistent, leaving plenty of room for loads of bad jokes that wildly miss their targets.
Under the right direction, the character Shaft perhaps still has some life in him, but Tim Story’s version is a disgrace, not just to the character Richard Roundtree established in 1971 but to movies in general—this one, easily one of the worst of the year, should never have made it past early draft stage, let alone to cinemas.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.