Review: ‘Shaft’ is funny and violent, if somewhat flawed

By Kristen Page-Kirby | Washington Post

An unofficial count of the audience at a “Shaft” press preview found 14 white people in the (full) theater, all of whom were in rows reserved for press. In fact, most of the people in the press rows were white.

That’s to be expected: A 2018 USC study found that just over 76 percent of film critics are white. That doesn’t mean that white men – or white women, a demographic that includes me – aren’t qualified to review the movie, which is a sequel to the 1971 classic of blaxploitation. But it is an issue, and we’ll get to that.

But first, I’m just talking about “Shaft.”

The new film is a sequel to 2000’s “Shaft,” which is itself a sequel to the 1971 original. The story opens with a 1989 prologue: Police officer John Shaft (Samuel L. Jackson), the nephew of the original Shaft, is in a car that gets shot up by bad guys – while his squeeze, Maya, is in the passenger seat and their infant son, JJ (for John Junior), is in his car seat in the back. Not wanting JJ to grow up facing the violence that follows Shaft wherever he goes, Maya splits, taking the boy with her and issuing strict orders for his father to stay away.

Jump to present day, when a now grown JJ (Jessie T. Usher) is an MIT graduate working as a data analyst for the FBI. When a childhood friend of his dies under mysterious circumstances, he goes to his dad for help in finding out who is responsible.

What follows is a film that embraces the camp of each of its predecessors while adding a timely new depth: the generational and cultural differences between Shaft and JJ are largely about what it means to be a black man today. Shaft tells JJ that his mother did a great job of raising him to be, as he puts it, a “white boy.” JJ, for his part, rebukes his father for using the n-word. (If memory serves, he doesn’t use it from then on). Shaft works the case with a shotgun, from the driver’s seat of a Chevy Chevelle. To his chagrin, his son prefers technology and Uber.

The portrayal of women has much improved. While there are scantily clad women who exist to show that Shaft is still a “sex machine to all the chicks” (to quote Isaac

Source:: East Bay – Entertainment


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