So, I’m going to start with some positives – the new SHAFT has several very funny scenes, cool nostalgia and is entertaining, for the most part. But, why am I starting with a preface and using the dreaded “but?” Because SHAFT is also problematic as f… “shut your mouth!”
What the movie does well: 1) has a great soundtrack (more thoughts on that in a minute) 2) pokes fun at the ridiculousness of some of those “manly” behaviors in prior films 3) casts three generations of the Shaft name with Richard Roundtree, Samuel L. Jackson and Jessie T. Usher and 4) casts the incomparable Regina Hall, who is comedy gold.
What I’m not so crazy about in the film? The misogynistic humor in the script and the jokes at the expense of the LGBTQ+ community. How “Shaft” manages to rib Samuel L. Jackson character’s ignorance – e.g. he mocks his son for his clothing choices or living in an apartment with an exposed brick wall and décor – by having his son address his inappropriateness is clever, until it isn’t. There are several gay jokes mostly in the first half of the film, and the awareness the film wants to display just doesn’t land with one of misogyny’s cousins (homophobia) hanging around.
And if you care to know Isaac Hayes III’s (the late Isaac Haye’s son) explanation of why the audience won’t hear an extended version of the “Theme from Shaft” or any other Hayes songs in the movie, take a listen here.
In sum, there’s enough campy action and comic stylings, when they aren’t offensive, to make this new “Shaft” installment entertaining enough, but in 2019 I don’t want to sidestep the offenses for a few laughs. We can and should be doing better.
I rate it 2.5 out of 5 on the MMTrometer. SHAFT is open in theaters nationwide June 14.
Until next thought, Thomasena
JJ, aka John Shaft Jr. (Usher), 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 (Jackson) 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 duster, there’s no denying family. Besides, Shaft’s got an agenda of his own, and a score to settle that’s professional and personal.
Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime
Release Date: June 14, 2019
Rated R for pervasive language, violence, sexual content, some drug material and brief nudity.
Runtime: 1 hr and 51 minutes
Studio: New Line Cinema
Directed by: Tim Story
Written by: Kenya Barris and Alex Barnow
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson (“Pulp Fiction,” “Glass,” “Captain Marvel”), Jessie T. Usher (“Independence Day: Resurgence,” “Almost Christmas”), Regina Hall (“Girls Trip,” “Little”), Alexandra Shipp (“X-Men: Apocalypse,” “Love, Simon”), Matt Lauria (TV’s “Kingdom,” “Friday Night Lights”), Titus Welliver (“Argo,” TV’s “Bosch”), Cliff “Method Man” Smith (“Peppermint,” “Trainwreck”), and Richard Roundtree, the original John Shaft.