A character that was born in the 70’s with Richard Roundtree as the lead and reimagined back in 2000 with Samuel L. Jackson. John Shaft is a NYC private investigator that likes to do things his own way. The type of man who will shoot first and ask questions later.
My first experience with a Shaft movie was watching Jackson’s first outing with the character roughly three years ago, in a movie that hadn’t aged quite as well as the actor portraying him. It was a movie that felt very much like it was clinging to its 70’s roots and never took itself too seriously. As a result, we were given a bizarre movie in which great actors like Jackson, Christian Bale and Toni Collette were given such lacklustre material to work with that resulted in a B-movie style of execution. It didn’t feel new (even with a 2000 release) and often felt far to cringey to be properly enjoyed.
In another unexpected move, the streaming giant finds some potential in a sequel to said movie, but is the tone going to be right this time? Is it going to make the most out of its cast? Are they genuinely going to try something new?
The answer to all those questions is quite simply, no. On paper it would appear that Tim Story, director of Ride Along, would be a strong candidate for the job given the tone and attitude of that movie. A sub par, buddy cop film that was neither groundbreaking nor completely underwhelming. It’s an unmemorable film for sure but a fun flick for the time nonetheless. This is the level I expected Shaft (2019) to hit at the bare minimum. The issue with this movie, which subsequently felt similar to the previous instalment, is its lack of identity. There are an abundance of films in the last twenty years that play out in such similar fashion and with no real risks being taken with its development, Shaft is just likely to fall into the shadows with the rest of them. Even whilst I’m writing this review I’m having to think of key moments or scenes that stood out from the rest of it, but there really is too little.
Samuel L. Jackson can only do so much with such a weak and cliched script. His performance alongside Shaft Jr (Jessie T. Usher), is what the movie fundamentally relies on and with the return of Roundtree reprising his role (although this time as Grandpa Shaft), we essentially have three people playing the same character. Basically meaning the movie tries to take on more Shaft than it can handle (pun intended).
In summary Shaft (2019) is no more than a violent, silly and underwhelming action shooter that would be most appreciated when watched with a group of friends over a pint or two, where your only attention would be cast upon the films most bombastic moments. When viewed with intent on being taken seriously however, you’re almost better off watching anything else. Quite literally anything.