After Hollywood offers remakes at a rate of what seems to be every few months, I always find myself a bit skeptical going into shows such as "Shaft". Sometimes they deliever, often they don't. Although there were certainly articles that discussed some of the creative arguments that happened on-set, I'm pleased to add "Shaft" into the catagory of successful remakes - or in this case, successful continuations. Does "Shaft" have particularly stunning writing? Well, no. But, it does give us what we expect - Samuel L. Jackson as Shaft in a perfect performance.
The film revolves around Shaft trying to hunt down a spoiled rich kid named Walter Wade (Christian Bale), who murdered a young black man and got away with a small bail, who then skips out of the country. When Wade comes back to the US, Shaft is waiting to arrest him again. When Wade is in prison, he meets up with an enemy of Shaft - a local drug dealer named Peoples Hernandez(Jeffrey Wright from "Basquiat") and the two team up against him. Meanwhile, Shaft looks to protect a local woman (Toni Collette) who may have witnessed Wade's crime.
Unlike the earlier film, Jackson's Shaft doesn't flirt with too many women (an issue that was argued about during production) and mainly just keeps it going with the action sequences as Jackson is the baddest of the bad, intimidating and funny at the same time. There are also some additional supporting performances from actors such as Wright and Colette that are engaging as well. Rapper Busta Rhymes is also excellent as Shaft's sidekick. Cinematographer Donald E. Thorin delivers a slick, enjoyable look to the picture that looks particularly great on this DVD, although I'll talk about that more later.
The film gets a little more dark as it goes on, but for the most part, this update of "Shaft" delivers solid action and a fantastic performance from Samuel L. Jackson in the lead role.
VIDEO: The 2.35:1 presentation is also anamorphic and easily stands as one of the best that Paramount has put out that I've seen. Sharpness and detail are absolutely first-rate as the picture looks crisp and well-defined throughout the movie, in daylight or dark scenes. Donald E. Thorin's cinematography is excellent, and looks wonderful on this disc.
There really are hardly any flaws apparent on Paramount's presentation. I noticed one or two small marks on the print used, but these were extremely minor. I also noticed a tiny bit of shimmer once or twice. There's no pixelation at all, and at its best, the image looks marvelous, with very good depth to the picture.
Colors are fantastic as well, with deep and rich colors that never look flawed or problematic. Overall, "Shaft" looks excellent and Paramount has done an excellent job here - again, easily one of their best works. The layer change is at 50 minutes and 52 seconds.
SOUND: "Shaft" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, and while it isn't really a very agressive presentation, quality-wise - it's very good. There really isn't a great deal of surround use throughout the movie; they mainly offer the music and occasionally some other minor background sounds.
Still, audio quality is strong throughout; dialogue is clear and easily understood throughout. David Arnold's 70's style score also sounds full and with solid presence, as well - with, of course, the familiar theme song sounding fantastic. Overall - misses a few opportunities to use the surrounds, but otherwise very good audio.
MENUS:: A stylish animated sequence opens the main menu, which is animated with music playing behind it.
Theatrical Trailer: The film's theatrical trailer, presented in Dolby 2.0 and 1.85:1.
Cast and Crew Interviews: Both the cast (Jackson, Vanessa Williams, Richard Roundtree and others) and the crew(director John Singleton) talk about what the character meant and means to them, as well as how they went about creating an updated version of a movie that was already good. It's interesting to listen to the viewpoint of Jackson on the character and also, to listen to the supporting characters, who have their own viewpoints on their role in this updated "Shaft" story.
Still The Man: A promotional featurette that lasts about 15 minutes - definitely one of the more "promotional" featurettes I've seen, offering some decent interviews that are rather interesting to listen to once, but don't provide too much information about the production.
Music Videos: "Theme From Shaft", Isaac Hayes; "Bad Man", R. Kelly.
Final Thoughts: "Shaft" is definitely worth looking at as a rental if you're an action fan. If you're already a fan of this update of the movie, it's worth picking up on DVD as although Paramount hasn't provided a great amount of extras, the audio/video quality is very good.