Shaft (2019) has three Shaft’s for the price of one. Yet it barely lives up to the original Shaft or even the 2000 Shaft. The main problem was director Tim Story turning it into a comedy. John Shaft’s badass nature is constantly turned into a joke thanks to the overly sensitive modern era. Blaxploitation can’t really survive in the 2010’s. Shaft (2019) takes place almost 2 decades after Shaft (2000). It’s primary selling point was including three generations of John Shaft.
Samuel L. Jackson finds time to play John Shaft II between his many other movie obligations. He just feels more overly profane and out of touch than he was before. Richard Roundtree returns for the fifth time as John Shaft Sr. Now he’s the father instead of uncle and they do point out the inconsistency. Roundtree’s role is complete false advertisement since he doesn’t show up till the climax. Instead we’re forced to get to know John Shaft’s son John Shaft Jr. (or JJ). Jessie T. Usher is exactly how you’d expect a millennial Shaft to be. JJ is whiny, overly critical, and complains about using a gun.
A frustratingly PC Shaft that constantly calls out what made the series so successful just isn’t entertaining. The classic theme song that was used in the trailer is either a cringy throw away joke or a terrible remix. The plot itself is the standard ethnic drug lords in Harlem fare. It’s really a father-son bonding story with a mostly black cast. Regina Hall is a little over-the-top as the unseen ex-wife of Shaft, but Alexandra Shipp is a fine love interest for JJ. I didn’t really get invested until the end where they finally deliver on triple Shaft action. Shaft (2019) might have worked better if they took it more seriously.
Preceded by: Shaft (2000)