Published Jun 01, 2000Samuel L. Jackson - 100 feet tall in a big bad coat and a bald head. Black, bad, on both sides of the law, dressed to kill, poised to thrill. Sadly, the whole thing comes across like icing without cake - cake being things like a story that makes sense, or tension that builds and relieves with rhythm. Icing in Shaft is like the richest mother-freakin whip-cream around. This film looks so rich and sumptuous, it feels like it's sweating massage oil, and you just want to work it back into it's big black booty. Slick, rich, warm, like a boomin ride in a burgundy Lexus with gold wheels.
The film opens with the slaying of a nice young black man by an arrogant rich white prick. Shaft glides in as the detective calling the shots, or rather calling the cliches. Shaft takes in the perp, but he gets bail and skips to Switzerland. Over a span of two years, Shaft busies himself trying to take down a Chicano drug lord named "Peoples" (for my people) played with great menace and comedic balance by Jefferey Wright. Evil whitey comes back to America, gets takin in again by Shaft, gets bail again, teams up with Peoples to take on Shaft. Throw in some bad cops on the take, a factory down by the waterfront and you have the requisite showdown. Where's the cake?
The only cake provided is by Jackson (beefcake that is, he is Shaft after all). But despite the best line in the film, "It's my duty to please that boo-tay," there's no sex machine goin' on. Shaft should be slayin the ladies, not dealin in maybes! It seems that Shaft is more concerned with honour these days, and the honour that can only be found by beaten on bad boys, and plenty. Later, beating elevates in the form of indiscriminant killing. Sure I have no problem with good guys killing bad guys, it is that kind of movie, but the pacing is really off, hardly any gun play at all, then BAM, people are all getting shot in the most absurd ways; the plot goes nowhere and then everybody meets at the same place, at the same time, and half the cast dies in 30 seconds. The cast is amazing in this loose remake of the Richard Rountree original, hey even Roundtree comes back to play Uncle Shaft, and Busta Rhymes gets full credit as the Rasta, general Shaft helper, chauffeur, and all-round pissed-off guy. It's totally worth it to watch Jackson, it's just too bad about the story.