Shaft (2019) balances being modern, funny, respecting the legacy of the character, all without skipping a beat or pushing you to check your watch.
Kenya Barris, Alex Barnow
Action, Comedy, Adventure
Good If You Like
Politically Incorrect Humor
Flinch Worthy Action
Leading Women Who Are Not Damsels In Distress
Moderate Twists & Turns In The Story
Father/ Son Relationships
Cute Builds To The Moment You’ve Been Waiting For
Isn’t For You If You
Aren’t For A Lot Of Cursing
Don’t Like Watching Films With A Bunch Of Gun Fights And Yet The Heroes Rarely Get Hit By A Bullet
Find Gay Jokes & Other Politically Incorrect Humor Something Which Can Ruin A Movie For You
Samuel L. Jackson
Jessie T. Usher
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In modern day, three generations of Shaft exist. There is Shaft Sr (Richard Roundtree), just Shaft (Samuel L. Jackson) and Junior (Jessie T. Usher). Shaft Sr is largely retired, though maintains an exquisite weapons collection. Shaft is still taking cases, whooping ass, having sex with women half his age, and keeping up – take that as you will. As for Junior? Well, with him being raised by his mom Maya (Regina Hall) in upstate New York, not knowing his dad well, or urban life, he is a bit more of a dweeb.
Mind you, an MIT graduate smart enough to get accepted into the FBI. However, when it comes to his childhood crush Sasha (Alexandra Shipp), despite more than a decade of knowing her it seems nothing has happened. Yet, thanks to his friend Karim (Avan Jogia) there is some traction. However, no sooner than Karim coming back into Junior’s life, and bringing Sasha with him, Karim is killed, and Junior realizes something is fishy about his death. Thus leading to him trying to investigate Karim’s death on his own but eventually realizing he needs his absentee father’s help. Leading to, after 25 years, and a bunch of inappropriate presents, the two men coming face to face to deal with the case, and their relationship.
The Father/ Son Relationship
While far from the kind of reconciliation which will drive you to tears, there is enough heart when it comes to Jackson & Usher’s Shaft for you to recognize this is about more than a case. It’s about a son testing to see if his father can step up when asked. When it comes to Jackson’s Shaft, it is about helping your son tap into what is his legacy and prove, despite his upbringing, nature does eventually prevail over nurture. And ultimately, you recognize as strained as the relationship is sometimes, the root of the whole pursuit of justice is about love.
Sappy stuff aside, nearly every other line out of Jackson’s mouth will make you laugh. Especially if you like raunchy, politically incorrect, and often teasing humor. Personally, I got 42 good laughs out of this, and if it wasn’t from Shaft’s introduction with glitter on his face, after having sex with a young lady, it was him saying the kind of off the cuff stuff only Shaft would say and Jackson could get away with.
Which isn’t to say no one else has their moments. Junior, usually when he is being punked or shown to be less than, he is hilarious as well. Also, not to be outdone, Maya and Sasha have multiple moments. Maya when she and Shaft see each other for the first time in years, she goes into the bathroom and has a moment in the mirror similar to what you have seen in Insecure. Then with Shipp, while she isn’t dropping funny lines left, and right, it is made clear she is not to be outdone. One line in particular, towards the end of the movie, is a quick moment but as hilarious as it is, it also reminds she is not this basic girl who can’t do anything besides give googly eyes and be a liability.
Speaking of not being outdone, Shipp whoops some ass in this movie. Far more than I expected, and honestly, she has better action scenes in this movie than Dark Phoenix. Though, her action scenes don’t compare to the three generations of Shaft. For whether it is Junior using capoeira in a bar scene, Jackson pairing a comical moment with him blasting away people, or even Roundtree, who shows up late in the movie, catching up, you will never be bored by these men or Sasha.
Junior and Sasha are cute. I’m talking genuine childhood sweetheart cute, not lustful, you expecting Shipp to do a nude scene cute. And what you have to love about that is you feel like you get a genuine build to them becoming something. Especially since it seemed, for years, they were just friends, and nothing clicked in Sasha’s mind when it came to Junior. However, between his father’s influence, coming off like a badass, and him showing some edge, you see something visibly click. Making it so you are rooting for them, particularly since Shipp is clearly more than just a love interest.
Both Hall & Shipp Not Being Limited To Damsels In Distress, Exes, or Potential Girlfriends
The same goes for Hall too. As noted above, both women are given their due and allowed to be more than a current or former flame. Sasha is in the medical field, has a gun and may know how to use it, can fight, and goes toe to toe with Shaft – calling him out for being a bad father. Making it clear she is not amused by his slick talk nor, until the s*** really hits the fan, needs Junior to play some sort of knight in shining armor. Honestly, a good portion of the time it seems she could probably whoop Junior’s ass. If not give him a run for his money.
Then with Hall, while she doesn’t whoop no one’s ass, when in a scene with Jackson, those two compliment each other so well. It’s not about trying to eclipse one another with a comedic take, recognizing Jackson is the star of the film or none of that. If Hall is on screen, she is written and treated as an equal which, considering this is Shaft, honestly comes as a surprise. Especially considering, outside of these two women, the others are either some Shaft knows, and maybe have slept with, or minor enough to forget.
The Twists & Turns Of The Case
I’m not going to pretend the twist and turns of Karim’s case will leave your jaw dropping. However, considering the action and comedy of the movie, you may believe the strength of those two elements are there to compensate. That isn’t the case actually. Again, not some Oscar-caliber storyline, but the twists are good enough to throw you off a bit, and things are handled to remind you the Shaft family are more than lovers and people who enjoy a good fight. They are also detectives dealing with shady people who are beyond entry-level drug dealers.
On The Fence
The Gay Jokes & Misogyny
Let’s be real, this is Shaft. To expect either Jackson or Roundtree’s version of the character to be politically correct, respectful, and not say some outrageous things every now and then wouldn’t be true to the role. With that said, if you are the type who finds maybe 10 or so minutes of gay jokes too much to bear, like when Shaft questions if his son might be homosexual just because he isn’t a misogynist like him, this might not be for you. If Shaft being, not a pervy old man, but one who definitely still enjoys sex and isn’t afraid to ask for some bothers you, this might not be for you. Lastly, if you don’t like women, repeatedly just being referred to by their genitalia, this may not be for you.
However, if that doesn’t bother you much, you won’t have a problem.
Like many, I question the need of sequels, updates, reimaginings, and things of that nature. However, despite the shift to a more comical Shaft, this version somehow nails all it set out to do. It provides you with the action you expect, the persona of Shaft, including his sexual prowess, and finds a way to make him funny but not so funny he is a clown. Add in that its female leads are treated as equals who can whoop ass, crack a joke, and be more than potential love interest, and you get a must see movie. Hence why the film is not only rated positive but recommended.