review by Bobby Blakey
In 1971 Richard Roundtree stepped onto the big screen to bring Shaft to life that not only spawned two sequels for Roundtree, but also cemented the character as a cult icon. In 2000 they brought the character back to the big screen for a new generation this time starring Samuel L. Jackson that served as the fourth entry into the franchise with Roundtree reprising his role and Jackson playing his nephew. Now new blood is joining the fifth entry with Jesse T. Usher starring alongside both Jackson and Roundtree with director Tim Story at the helm, but does it live up to the Shaft legacy or should it have just shut its mouth?
Shaft follows JJ, aka John Shaft Jr. who may be a cyber security expert with a degree from MIT, but to uncover the truth behind his best friend's untimely death, he needs an education only his dad can provide. Absent throughout JJ's youth, the legendary locked-and-loaded John Shaft agrees to help his progeny navigate Harlem's heroin-infested underbelly. And while JJ's own FBI analyst's badge may clash with his dad's trademark leather coat, there's no denying family. Besides, Shaft's got an agenda of his own, and a score to settle that's professional and personal.
I was always bummed that the Jackson led film never kicked off a new series of films, but thankfully we are here to see him back in the role. For those wondering this is in fact a direct sequel to that one as well as the originals complete with some great nods to them all. The biggest difference this time around comes in a bit more humor that was almost necessary to bridge the gap in perceptions of the times from the young and old Shaft. This made for some great banter between Jackson and Usher who are both great here. Jackson was born for this role and feels more like Roundtree’s original Shaft than he did in the previous film making him a lot more fun to watch while still having his signature swagger.
Usher brings an innocence to his character as he is the important bridge and
history to the Shaft legacy. While he is a far cry from both Roundtree and Jackson he is still not the buffon that trailers kind of make him look. Sure he is a softer character clearly brought up in today’s time, but represents the growth and changes in the world and seeing them all clash works great. Throughout the family story and laughs there is still the expected action side that pulls no punches allowing the bullets to fly freely and often.
I had great fun with this new direction of the franchise and hope it does well enough to finally get more entries, but if not this works great to bring the previous films together as one.
In addition to the film this release includes bonus content including deleted scenes, a gag reel and numerous featurettes that take you behind bringing this bad mother back to the screen. Grab your copy of Shaft available now on Digital and then on Blu-ray and DVD on September 24th from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.