REVIEW: ‘Shaft’ doesn’t break ground, but it still kicks some ass

This movie has three Shafts in a movie series that now has five “Shafts.” Yeah, there’s definitely history there.

So this film re-introduces the John Shaft from the 20 movie, played by Samuel L. Jackson. The audience soon learns that he and his girlfriend Maya (Regina Hall ) have had a child, JJ (Jessie T. Usher). Because of the danger associated with his job, though, Maya takes JJ away from New York City to live in a safe environment.

The story picks up in the present day, with JJ now a grown man and an FBI data analyst. While not a field agent, the death of a friend drags him out of the office and into NYC’s crime underground. To get some help, JJ enlists the help of his estranged father. Together they have to balance reconnecting and solving the latest case.

So, “Shaft 2019” is another one of these ‘soft’ reboots to kick off a new franchise, and while I don’t think anyone was necessarily asking for a new “Shaft,” this one is at least fairly entertaining. That doesn’t mean it’s particularly groundbreaking, though.

This new “Shaft” is a rather by-the-books action-crime-comedy, with a straightforward mystery for the father-son duo to uncover. On top of a story without many twists, a good chunk of this movie’s comedy basically boils down to, “hur-dur, kids-now-a-days, millennial, technology, times are changin.”

However, I can’t deny that the movie can hold a person’s attention. The fast pace and loose, fun tone make the new “Shaft” an OK flick to catch. When it’s humor isn’t related to the whole ‘older person trying to relate to new generation’ stuff, “Shaft” is pretty humorous, enough to get this viewer to laugh quite a few times.

Courtesy Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema.

Additionally, while not super flashy, the action is made to be at least entertaining thanks to the older Shaft’s more hands-on approaches to bad guys. It gets by on a sort-of B-movie exaggeration in the action department

Speaking of, Jackson is fantastic as the main man Shaft. He’s has the swagger and the attitude needed to deal with situations and watching him tear through baddies in convincing fashion makes for a good time.

Usher is also pretty good here as JJ, providing a nice balance by calling out his dad on some of his BS. There isn’t a feeling of him getting overshadowed by Jackson, and instead the two work together well onscreen. This is helped by his character becoming a more experienced crime fighter as the flick goes on.

Richard Roundtree also makes an appearance here, but it’s really more of a glorified cameo than an actual character. The rest of the people on screen are hit or miss. Hall is fine as Shaft’s former girlfriend who’s fed up with him. However, the movie is sorely lacking in a true villain.

“Shaft” isn’t high art and it doesn’t take the franchise to a higher level. The movie probably could have been great if it went for a real gritty, grimy approach of a younger Shaft taking on a modern NYC. However, as simply a form of entertainment, it can still do its job. 3.0 out of 5.


Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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