Shaft's Big Score! (1972)

DVD Cover (Warner Brother)
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Overall Rating 60%
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Ranked #5,159
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Connections: Shaft

When Shaft finds out that a dead friend ran a numbers racket out of his legitimate business and left $200,000 unaccounted for, he knows why he has suddenly found himself in the middle of a war between rival thugs. These goons are all trying to take over the territory of the dead man as well as get their hands on the missing 200 grand. Shaft has all he can handle trying to track down the money and, at the same time, keep his friend's sister from the clutches of the hoods. --IMDb
Richard Roundtree
Richard Roundtree
Moses Gunn
Moses Gunn
Drew Bundini Brown
Drew Bundini Brown
Joseph Mascolo
Joseph Mascolo
Kathy Imrie
Kathy Imrie
Review by Chad
Added: March 08, 2007
Throughout the month of February, I decided to "celebrate" Black History Month on this site by reviewing a handful of blaxploitation films. It probably would have been more politically correct to focus on films such as Malcolm X or some such, but those just aren't my types of movies; I'm a huge fan of seventies grindhouse sleaze, so digging in to the world of blaxploitation made perfect sense to me. Now, these films were obviously designed with a black audience in mind, and being that I'm the polar opposite of their target demographic, I sort of figured that they wouldn't exactly be my cup of tea. So, I figured I'd review a couple of the better-known films and that would be that - I never expected that I would enjoy them as much as I did. Therefore, expect me to continue to slide one in here and there, starting with Richard Roundtree's second outing as Shaft.

This time around, the movie begins with Shaft doing one of the things that he does best: making sweet love to a fine lady. He receives a call in the middle of this, and the man on the line is Pascal (Joe Santos), one of Shaft's old friends who just so happens to be tied up in the numbers racket. However, this particular guy isn't your typical racketeer: he uses the money that he makes to improve the Harlem community, and any man that does that is a friend of Shaft's. The current problem is that someone wants to kill Pascal and steal the money that he's been saving to build a new children's center, and for that, he asks for Shaft's help. Sadly, he's killed in a fiery explosion before Shaft can arrive to help him, and from there, Shaft is on the case.

As Shaft investigates the case, he discovers that Pascal's business partner Johnny Kelly (Wally Taylor) was in a world of gambling debts, and just before he died, Pascal had severed his ties with Kelly. Knowing that Kelly is probably the guilty party, Shaft sets out to gather evidence and find the quarter-million dollars that Pascal hid just before he died. Along the way, Shaft will once again meet up with Bumpy Jonas (Moses Gunn) as well as a mafia kingpin by the name of Gus Mascola (Joseph Mascolo), both of whom want their slice of the titular big score.

While not as memorable as either the original film or Shaft in Africa, Shaft's Big Score! is still an entertaining film thanks in large part to Roundtree's incredible screen presence. The man just oozes charisma, and he also seems completely natural in the role. When you watch someone like Tom Cruise or Steven Seagal play the bad-ass action star, you know that they're just actors playing the part; however, when you watch Richard Roundtree in this sort of role, you fully believe that the man isn't playing a character so much as he's just being himself.

Thanks to the surprising success of Shaft, director Gordon Parks was given a considerably larger budget for the sequel, and that fact definitely shows in the final showdown. While there are bits and pieces of action to be found as the plot unravels, it's still a detective film at heart and as such, there's a lot of dialogue and investigating to be found. Then, for the last half hour of the film, we're treated to an almost nonstop action / chase sequence that involves car-chases, boat-rides, and a damned fine showdown between Shaft and a gun-toting sniper in a helicopter. It doesn't get much better than that, and action junkies will surely love the climax of this film.

However, I believe that there is such a thing as "too much of a good thing", and that's truly my only complaint about the film. Personally, I love action films, but there has to be some sort of break in the action so as not to get repetitive; after all, one high-speed gun battle is good and two is even better, but when you start to hit seven and eight, it's time to move on to something else. That minor pacing issue is the only negative thing that I can say about the film at hand, but I'm sure my sentiment on that matter won't be universally shared.

Again, it's not quite as good as the other two films in the trilogy, but if you enjoyed those, then you certainly won't be disappointed with this one. Just make sure that this one isn't your introduction to the series and you'll be fine. 7/10.
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