In 2000, the late great John Singleton’s mediocre reboot of “Shaft” seemed like a great vehicle franchise for Samuel L. Jackson to bring to life one of the most popular anti-heroes of the seventies. Then suddenly nothing. And there was nothing for a long time, no sequels, or follow ups, or even a TV show. Twenty years later, the fans finally get a follow up, but nothing more than a cheap, lazy, and ridiculous legacy sequel/soft reboot by Tim Story that completely undoes a lot of what we saw in the 2000 Singleton version, right down to the gritty crime atmosphere.
Twenty years after the original reboot/sequel of 1971’s “Shaft,” John Shaft has now become a private investigator and his long lost son John Shaft (or JJ) has grown up without him. Now that John Shaft is in law enforcement he’s anxious to prove himself, and becomes even more insistent after his childhood friend is found dead outside a drug den. With no other option John Shaft enlists estranged dad John Shaft to investigate the mysterious death, all the while re-connecting with his son John Shaft.
“Shaft” is an embarrassing attempt to reboot the entire series all over again while also passing the torch on to a new generation. There is absolutely no point in doing so when Samuel L. Jackson only played Shaft once, so it’s painfully awkward when the writers and producers try to usher in a new kind of John Shaft for the millennials. Whether intentional or not, the writers completely remake Jackson’s John Shaft as an obnoxious, loud mouthed, toxic, and altogether stupid anti-hero most of the time. Jackson is handed some brutally ridiculous monologues while the screen writers turn Shaft in to a caricature that mocks his son’s sexuality consistently, mocks millennials (yawn), and preaches about how women don’t want a “pussy” for a husband.
The writers want to appeal to a modern audience while also winning back the folks that still remember the 2000 movie, so they awkwardly attempt to pair goofy comedy, with gritty crime thriller. Jess Usher as Shaft III is played as the comic relief who struggles to be taken seriously, all the while acting like a genuine fool through most of his screen time. Usher can barely keep up with Jackson, whose character is tacked on to a bland murder mystery. Speaking of awkward, the teaming of Jackson and his thirty years younger co-star Regina Hall as long lost lovers is not just a ill conceived, but wholly uninteresting.
In 2000, the whole racially charged drama involving the wealthy getting away with literal murder was at least fascinating. In this goofy follow up, the murder mystery has zero stakes, no emotional weight, the villain is bland, and JJ never seems all too distressed about his childhood friend dying in a gutter. “Shaft” is a god awful piece of garbage pseudo-follow up to a movie that deserved so much better, with Jackson who should have been given the chance to realize his version of Shaft in his own movie series. Add this to the pile of crap legacy sequels like “A Good Day to Die Hard,” and “Blues Brothers 2000.”
The new release from Warner comes with a DVD Copy and a Digital Copy. “Can Ya Dig It? The Making of Shaft” is a discussion with director Tim Story, the writer, and the cast, all of whom talk about the film, the franchise, and the new direction they took. “A Complicated Man: The Shaft Legacy” is a forty four minute retrospective on the influential crime thriller “Shaft” and its legacy of sequels, spin offs, and reboots. There’s talk with various writers, historians, Jackson, Michael Jai White, and so many more people. If anything this deserves its own separate release. It features four chapters discussing everything about Shaft and his influence on popular culture and black cinema. Finally there are two minutes of deleted scenes and a five minute gag reel.