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Shaft

List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Jeremy Kleinman | posted June 13, 2000 | E-mail the Author
Movie:
That Shaft is one bad mother...SHUT YOUR MOUTH....I'm just reviewing "Shaft"...Then we can dig it! From the opening of Issac Hayes' Oscar winning Theme from Shaft, this is a fun, enjoyable movie. Made in 1971 and now being updated in a new version starring Samuel L. Jackson, Shaft is a film that really transformed the "Blaxploitation" genre and, to some degree the action film genre- it created an action hero who was "hotter than Bond and cooler than Bullit" and the film quickly rose to cult status.

John Shaft, the protagonist of the film does come across as the epitome of cool. Even without either a heavy duty arsenal at his disposal or the advanced martial arts skills that seem to be a staple in so many action films today, Shaft still manages to do a good amount of damage. Richard Roundtree does a good job staying in character as the ultra smooth private detective and rest assured, there are no internal moral crises plaguing the protagonist. Instead, throughout the film John Shaft is at his most tough, slick, cool and smooth as he tries to carry out an assignment that quickly gets him into trouble.

Shaft is a highly entertaining film. While it may not measure up to some of the action films released today, the film contains a nice blend of action, great lines and a decent story. John Shaft is one of the great movie characters of the last few decades, and is the main reason for the film's cult following. Shaft is definitely worth at least a rent and makes a good addition to a growing DVD collection.

The Picture:
Because the film is 29 years old, the projection leaves much to be desired. Although it is much less obvious as one gets absorbed into the film, the picture, particularly at the beginning of the film appears a bit grainy and basically looks "old".

Warner Brothers did release Shaft with both a widescreen and full screen presentation formats and the widescreen version is apparently "enhanced for widescreen TV's." While a cleaner version would have made a big difference, it is still worth adding to your collection, particularly if you are already a fan of the movie.

The Sound:
Sadly, despite the fact that the film is presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital, the sound transfer leaves much to be desired. Like the picture, one gets more used to it as one becomes more engrossed in the story, but the early dialogue sound quite poor. Whether this is the best that could be obtained, or Warner Brothers rushed the DVD out for the new Shaft's release, the sound is somewhat disappointing. While it definitely does not prevent the viewer from enjoying the film, this is definitely not one of those DVD's that you would pull out to demonstrate digital sound and the versatility of your sound system.

Extras:
As expected with a film this old, the extras are few and far between. There is a cast/ crew feature which only details the career of Richard Roundtree and a ten minute documentary entitled "Soul in Cinema: Filming Shaft on Location". The documentary does not really feature any interviews but shows director Gordon Parks orchestrating a couple of key scenes and also shows Issac Hayes and his band jamming on the music for one scene as well as on the Theme from Shaft. It doesn't offer any tremendous insight on the film, but is worth checking out, just to get a look behind the scenes. The DVD also contains theatrical trailers for Shaft as well as its two sequels, "Shaft's Big Score" and "Shaft in Africa."

Final Thoughts:
Made almost 30 years ago, the film may at first seem somewhat antiquated. Though a bit of a guilty pleasure, the film is a lot of fun and offers a viewer a great opportunity to enjoy both a good action flick and THE portrayal of early 1970's cool. Definitely check it out.

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