Shaft (2000)

Synopsis: Who delivers ten times out of ten? Samuel L. Jackson is Shaft, the man and the movie. John Singleton (Boyz ‘N’ The Hood), directs this gritty action packed thriller.

With Uncle John Shaft (Richard Roundtree reprising his original role) as mentor, it’s no surprise that today’s Shaft is the coolest dude and the hottest action around. To stop a racist killer (Christian Bale) Shaft’s got to track down the only eyewitness that can put him behind bars (Toni Colette). As Shaft closes in, so does the danger. Armed with attitude and up against corrupt cops and venomous druglords he’s out to make crime pay up.
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Shaft (2000) 4.5

When I watched this film, I fully expected it to be a remake of the original film. Thus, I watched it right after seeing the first one for the simple satisfaction of comparing the two. In truth, until then, I had never really wanted to see it – but I am a HUGE fan of John Singleton’s ‘Boyz n the Hood’ and I figured that Samuel L Jackson could give the iconic character a certain edge.

Unfortunately, SLJ’s Shaft isn’t very cool – even though he’s meant to be: he barely looks the part and certainly doesn’t act it. In fact, the character has anger management issues that are difficult to overcome; in my mind, being verbally or physically abusive makes him somewhat unlikeable as a hero. Furthermore, he is a killer: he guns people down cold-bloodedly and even commands his partner to pull the trigger on a colleague without conscience.

In fact, the movie glorifies vigilanteism to the degree that it wants us to accept that execution is part and parcel with justice. In my mind, it’s a rather irresponsible way to tackle the issue of crime – unless you’re watching ‘Judge Dredd’ (the comic for which being wholly satirical!). What this film does, essentially, is taking the themes of ‘Dirty Harry’ to an extreme wherein it fails to engender dialogue and offers instead dubiously pre-packaged conclusions.

As a film, it feels like a direct-to-video effort: it’s cheap-looking, uninspired and filled with b-list actors. Actually, many scenes even felt like they were pulled from after-school specials: there was an emphasis on cliché-ladden and/or cheesy monologues and stilted set-ups. The script itself was filled with terrible dialogue, a see-through plot of little consequence and a bevy of useless and/or unlikeable characters one would be hard-pressed to sympathize or empathize with.

Honestly, there was so little point in rebooting the franchise with Jackson in it. New Shaft or old Shaft, it’s still a shaft.

Nota bene: I should point out, for the record, that it turns out that this ‘Shaft’ isn’t a remake, per se, but more of a sequel of sorts – in which the lead character is the nephew of the original Shaft (who, to pass the torch and give it more credibility, also appears in the film – albeit mostly in a redundant fashion, in throw-away bits). It’s an appealing notion, and it’s likely that die-hard fans of the series were thrilled, but it’s the only nice touch in an otherwise unusually useless production.

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