Shaft (2000)

DVD Cover (Paramount)
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Connections: Shaft

Cool and deadly NYPD detective John Shaft arrests Walter Wade, Jr. in a racially-motivated slaying. The eye witness disappears, Wade jumps bail for Switzerland, and Shaft is livid. Two years later, Wade returns to face trial, confident his father's money and influence (and racial politics) guarantee an innocent verdict. Shaft looks hard for the witness, so Wade wants someone to kill her. He turns to a ghetto drug king, Peoples Hernandez, who's willing to kill for money, use Wade as a route to rich drug customers, and shaft Shaft. Can Shaft find the witness, convince her to testify, and shepherd her through the hail of bullets that Peoples is sure to let fly? --IMDb
Review by Chad
Added: February 25, 2007
Remakes tend to suck, but every once in a while, one comes along that does the original justice while also exploring new ground with the content. This, my dear readers, is one of those times. I really have to wonder about all of the negative press that it received upon its original release, as I felt that it captured the heart and soul of the original almost flawlessly. Sure, there were a few things that didn't quite match up to Richard Roundtree's outing as "the man", but for the most part, director John Singleton did a damned fine job with his remake / spin-off.

This time around, John Shaft (Samuel L. Jackson) is a police officer (too black for the uniform, too blue for the brothers) instead of a private detective. A minor detail, some will say, but I was a bit disappointed with this change at first; however, this decision ended up making sense and did add to the storyline. Anyway, the movie begins with a young black man laying on the sidewalk with his head bashed in, and Shaft just so happens to be the investigating officer. His investigations lead him to Diane Palmieri (Toni Collette), a waitress who turns out to be the sole witness of the attack. She points out the wealthy Walter Wade, Jr. (Christian Bale) to Shaft as the guilty party, but when the court date rolls around, she's nowhere to be found. As a result of there being no eye-witnesses, Wade is handed an incredibly-low bail, which he immediately pays before heading off to Switzerland to avoid the inevitable trial.

Two years later, Wade comes back to the United States, and this time, Shaft doesn't plan on letting him jump bail. With the help of his buddy Rasaan (Busta Rhymes), Shaft is waiting at the airport for Wade to step off the plane, and he's in police custody before he can even stretch his legs. It seems as though the good guy has finally won, until the judge once again lets Wade go by setting a low bail. Frustrated with the lack of justice, Shaft quits the police force and sets out to serve his own form of justice, and his first mission is to find the waitress that witnessed the attack. Meanwhile, Wade has formed an uneasy partnership with drug-dealer Peoples Hernandez (Jeffrey Wright) in an effort to find and "silence" the waitress whose testimony will send him to jail. Shaft has a couple of friends of his own, including fellow cop Carmen Vasquez (Vanessa Williams) and his uncle (Richard Roundtree, also known as the original Shaft), but will it be enough?

As I alluded to earlier, this film does a great job of capturing the essence of the original Shaft films as well as Richard Roundtree's portrayal of the titular character. This is thanks in no small part to Samuel L. Jackson's spot-on portrayal of the character, and I honestly believe that there isn't anyone else working today who could have pulled it off better than him. This is the sort of role that he was born to do: a joke-cracking bad-ass who doesn't take shit from anyone and won't hesitate to put a beatdown on someone to get what he wants. Needless to say, Jackson is perfect in this role and he has no shortage of material to work with.

Although it's his movie, Jackson isn't the only bright spot to be found here. Christian Bale certainly didn't slouch in his portrayal of the rich, racist antagonist, and his character was the perfect villain for Shaft to go up against given the racial undertones of the original films. Jeffrey Wright was another man who did a great job as the ruthless kingpin who wants nothing more than to see Shaft put six feet under, and his inclusion here served as yet another well-developed character for Shaft to feud with.

The storyline is as solid as one would expect from the Shaft universe, with plenty of plot twists and action sequences to keep the audience happy. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Singleton stuck with the detective theme of the original films instead of converting it into a mindless action flick like many directors probably would have, and I felt that that really helped the movie in the long run. In fact, with the exception of some of the "racier" racial jokes and the nudity (Shaft always scored at least one sex scene in the originals), this movie felt like it could have easily been the fourth in the original series. I can forgive the racial stuff - after all, it's pretty obvious that that sort of thing wouldn't go over very well in a mainstream film these days - but I was a little disappointed that Jackson didn't receive a shot at making sweet love to at least one of the ladies found within the running time. That may seem like a minor thing to complain about, but c'mon: the first line in his infamous theme song proclaims that he's a "sex machine to all the chicks", so leaving that part out was a little bit disappointing.

Overall though, I was thoroughly pleased with this remake and felt that John Singleton did the original justice with his take on the character and themes. The story is intriguing, the action is handled excellently, and of course, you have an unrestrained Samuel L. Jackson doing what he does best: what's not to love about that? 8/10.
Ginose #1: Ginose - added 12/27/2009, 08:19 PM
...isn't this TECHNICALLY the fourth "Shaft" movie, given Richard Roundtree returns as the original Shaft and the plot has nothing todowiththe original's?
Chad #2: Chad - added 12/27/2009, 09:58 PM
Makes sense to me.
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