Shaft is back and this time introducing us to a third generation of the classic detective. It picks up with Samuel L. Jackson’s John Shaft II being left by his wife Maya and their baby son JJ because of his dangerous lifestyle. Picking up 25 years later with JJ working as an FBI analyst who gets drawn into an investigation after his childhood best friend dies of a heroin overdose. Turning to his estranged father for help we see these two very different generations of Shaft man working together to solve the case.
The big problem with the film is that the original Shaft, and Jackson’s version, feel very much outdated people. Horribly misogynistic and offensive characters, that whilst the film does occasionally call out for their behaviour, spends far more time holding up on a pedestal as a paragon of masculinity. Really the world has moved on from this kind of character, but the writers of the film haven’t.
When we’re introduced to JJ, played by Jessie Usher best known for taking over from Will Smith in Independence Day: Resurgence, he is actually a likeable character. However his arc over the film is to become more and more like the classic versions of the character, learning to be more “manly” and macho until he basically becomes a younger version of them. Jackson’s Shaft, and Richard Roundtree’s when they appear are just one dimensional characters, and not particularly interesting.
As a detective film the mystery at the heart of the film isn’t interesting, and the twists in the film are predictable a mile out. The action sequences aren’t much, as Roundtree and Jackson are realistically too old to carry off any good action, and it isn’t really in JJ’s character. And as a comedy there is only one, maybe two jokes, that got a laugh out of me during the film so it cannot really be considered a success on that level either.
Shaft may be available to watch for free on Netflix, but it honestly isn’t worth your time, go watch nearly anything else.