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Warner Bros. // R // September 10, 2019
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ryan Keefer | posted October 23, 2019 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

I'm not going to lie, I glossed over the fact that several moons ago, Samuel L. Jackson decided to do a reboot of Shaft, the 1971 Richard Roundtree film that was the closest thing to a film franchise the African American community has had. I liked the original, thought the remake could have been silly and ignored it. And I knew little about the 2019 film. Jackson was in it? Roundtree too? Why reboot something 20 years ago? Then it dawned on me: Shaft can be a pop-pop too!

The latest Shaft was written by Kenya Barris (Black-ish and Alex Barnow (The Goldbergs) and directed by Tim Story (Ride Along). It looks at the latest Shaft named JJ (Jessie T. Usher, Indepedence Day: Resurgence), who was the son from John Jr. (Jackson) and Maya (Regina Hall, Law Abiding Citizen), who kept JJ as far away from his Dad as much as possible, despite Dad sending gifts periodically through the years. JJ grew up into an FBI data analyst, and his childhood friend Karim (Avan Jogia, A Midsummer Night's Dream) appears to have died from a drug overdose. JJ investigates the cause of his death, and learns about his family and an incident went was a baby that brings things back around for him.

One of the things I cite every so often when it comes to unwelcome or unnecessary films, or films that are bad, is that the dedication to the concept by the cast is key towards the fate of the film. The concept of this version of Shaft appears to almost exclusively be to serve as a restarting of the franchise for the 21st century and it…kind of works? Everyone is working towards pushing Usher to a new Shaft; Jackson goes for it, and eventually Roundtree goes for it as well and it's strangely charming. The film looks at the generational influences between the three characters, as the first two Shafts look cross-eyed as what the newest one does, with requisite and genuine laughs resulting.

The film quietly shows JJ's transformation from data guy who private dick and general bad mother kind of well, while giving enough chances for John Jr. and John Sr. to laugh and shake their heads at the latest generation. Usher carries himself well next to Jackson and Roundtree, who contribute their own share of laughs to round out the ensemble. Hall has some sneaky comic moments as well. The antagonist is played by Isaach de Bankole (Black Panther), who is pumped up a little for the sake of being the bad guy, but he's not that significant to events in the film, let's be honest. It's about Shaft, whether it's one, or another, or another.

There's little doubt that 2019's Shaft is probably something that not many of us need and all of us deserve. But I would encourage people to check it out for a welcome treat. The action is kind of silly and a little pointless, going hand in hand with an implausible story. But the thing that separates it from similar films is that the filmmakers and actors are aware of this, and they all seem to be telling you to say screw it and go along for the ride. If you do that, you are going to be rewarded.

The Blu-ray
The Video:

The 2.39:1 widescreen presentation of Shaft is pretty amazing looking, with numerous night sequences including inky black levels, and color reproduction is vivid and does not oversaturate. Image detail is ample in the actor's faces and clothing, and looks razor sharp without smearing or artifact issues. Like the content of the film, I was not sure what to expect from the look of this latest Shaft film and it was a welcome result.

The Sound:

Warner gives Shaft a Dolby Atmos presentation and it's worth the listen, it covers a lot of ground musically, lots of rap and hip-hop through the years. I was watching the film and my wife was not, but she kept looking over at what was being played, in the ‘man, I haven't heard that in forever!' vibe. Dynamic range is broad and subwoofer activity ample through the numerous songs, and in natural moments like a club scene environmental noise is immersive. Dialogue is well-balanced and consistent, gunfire whirs around the home theater with channel panning and directional effects are natural and convincing. This is a pleasant sonic treat.


There is not all that much here, though one piece is pretty good and that's "A Complicated Man" (44:14), which gets into the legacy, cinematic and socioeconomic on John Shaft. Roundtree, Jackson and others like Michael Jai White discuss the importance of the character and movie to them when they saw it, and Gordon Parks' relationship with the studios and desire to make the film with his vision. The moustache, the clothes and the music are discussed and their importance therein, along with the sequels and reboots through the years. It's a surprisingly candid piece and worth checking out.

The remaining materials? Eh. The Making of piece (10:36) discusses some of the same personal importance, and thoughts on making this a reboot for the third generation. The story's realization to film is covered, along with the differences from past generations. Shooting in Harlem and New York proper is recalled to boot, and is a nice segment. Five deleted scenes (2:54) are redundant and forgettable, and the gag reel (4:53) is kind of funny.

Final Thoughts:

My guess is more than a couple of action films put their tongue in their cheek when some one-liners are uttered as they go through a story that they expect you to swallow. Shaft focuses things on the protagonists, knows the bad guy is secondary to the intent of creating the bonds between three generations of Shafts, and the results wind up being a treat. Technically the disc looks and sounds great, and while the piece on the Shaft character is good, the other extras are a letdown. Definitely worth checking out as more and more opportunities to see it come about.

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