Written by: Richard Price, Shane Salerno & John Singleton, based on the 1971 movie written by John D.F. Black & Ernest Tidyman and the novel by Ernest Tidyman
Directed by: John Singleton
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Jeffrey Wright, Christian Bale, Vanessa Williams, Richard Roundtree
My Advice: Rent it.
Police detective John Shaft (Jackson) walks onto a pretty heinous crime scene. Racist uberbastard Walter (Bale) has just caved in the skull of a young black man who talked back to Walter’s tauntings in a bar. Open and shut case, yes? Well, not quite. Walter’s the son of a VIP rich real estate mogul, and can afford lawyers and bail out the ying yang. And hey, there weren’t any witnesses…or were there?
This is a film where if you decide to take it too seriously, you will be seriously disappointed. It’s pretty much just a vehicle for Samuel “Badass” Jackson to work his magic–and work it he does. When he’s not pistol whipping drug peddlers he’s breaking the nose of Christian Bale’s character–and the fun, winking aspects of the movie (along with the action sequences) work really well. Bale himself is suitably malevolent and Wright is acting up a storm as Peoples Hernandez, the second villain of the piece–it’s just a shame that he seemed to drown in his own accent at times. Williams does reasonably well as Shaft’s police backup and Busta Rhymes does not annoy in the role of the wise-cracking driver. As for Richard Roundtree? Even as Uncle Shaft, he’s still the man.
[ad#longpost]There are horrible seams in this film that hobble the project and keep it from being as smooth as Isaac Hayes‘ theme song. These are no doubt a result of all the on-project tension between Jackson, Singleton, Price, Rudin and God knows who else. For example, Shaft appears to quit the police force at the very beginning of the film, but then two years later he’s helping with a bust. Someone says, in essence, “I thought you quit.” He says something like, “Not yet.” It almost felt as if they had shot and edited the film in sequence and Jackson knew there would be confusion, so they just threw that line in. The editing was just bad, as characters’ introductions get lost. There’s a woman in the courtroom–you’re fairly certain she’s the mother of the victim, but when did we learn this? Towards the end of the film, we learn that a certain character is Peoples’ brother–very abruptly. Was this supposed to be a surprise? It sure didn’t seem that way. We won’t even go into some of the things the characters do that don’t make sense.
It’s because I kept wondering about such things that I’m falling back and advising you to rent it. Now I will say this: if you’re a big Sam Jackson fan (like myself) or a big fan of the original film–catch a matinee. It’s a bit of a hoot, you won’t be disappointed. Like I said, turn off your brain, get into the groove with Jackson and enjoy. Not a bad showing, but still…with a little effort into smoothing, it could have been a lot better.