Movie Reviews: Shaft




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     Paramount (90 mins.)
     Shaft seeks to protect a murder witness who goes undercover.
     Samuel L. Jackson, Vanessa Williams, Jeffrey Wright, Busta Rhymes, Richard Roundtree
Bottom Line:


     Unless you've been living under a rock for the past several weeks, you've probably heard of all the hype. Shaft is back. But what you probably haven't heard is that the new Shaft (Samuel L. Jackson) is not to be confused with the pop icon of the 1970s.
     From the opening credits of cutting-edge images and the thumping beat of Isaac Hayes' theme, it's apparent that director John Singleton is aiming his vision of Shaft at the MTV generation and the summer box office crowd.
     Thirty years later, Shaft has emerged from the blaxploitation genre, to a commercial crossover vehicle hoping to ring up those summer box-office dollars.
     And even though Richard Roundtree, reprises his role as the original Shaft, the white power structure which he destined are no longer the villains. Shaft's modern villains are molded straight from the Die Hard and Lethal Weapon comic-book like cast.
     Jackson plays Roundtrees' nephew, New York City Det. John Shaft, who is trying to convince murder witness Diane Palmier (Toni Collette) to come forward and testify against a spoiled college kid Walter Wade (Christian Bale) who brutally beat to death a young black student.
Palmier disappears and Wade flees the country.
     Two years later, Wade returns to New York and after his wealthy father posts his bale, he joins forces with drug dealer Peoples Hernandez (Jeffery Wright) to find Palmier and exact his revenge on Shaft.
     And unlike the older Shaft, Shaft tries to work within the system, but the cynical elder Shaft says there's always a "but what" when it comes to dealing with the system and people who have the money to make it work for them:

Shaft: I don't get it. If it were me, I'd never come back.

Uncle Shaft: There you see. If there ever was a "But What" that would be it. When it comes to justice, that kid's old man has enough juice around here to slip his thumb on the scale and nobody would say nothin.'

Shaft: Ain't no way he walks from this. No way.

Shaft: I don't know why I took that job, thinking I could fight the good fight from the inside. And you telling me about all the problems. The color thing. Black for the uniform. Blue for the brothers and how justice gets tangled up in the red tape and just bought off by the green. You were right. I'm going to get him my own way. No lawyers. No politics. No rules. No regulations.

Uncle Shaft: No pension.

Shaft: What?

Uncle Shaft: you're too hot. You have to step off a bit. Let me put my people on it.

Shaft: No. He's mine.

Uncle Shaft: What's the difference. Got, is got.

Shaft: He's mine.

     Singleton's Shaft by no means is a remake or a sequel. The new Shaft is part of the system the original Shaft fought against. Singleton does, however, pay homage to the original film by using Isaac Hayes' familiar theme song and cameos by Roundtree and original director Gordon Parks. But Shaft 2000 is breakneck summertime two-hour Saturday afternoon action flick.
     Nothing more.



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