Plot: You’d think that people would know by now you don’t mess with John Shaft (Richard Roundtree), but it seems like some folks never learn. This time Shaft finds himself in the middle of a battle between two rival mob factions, all of whom want more power and even more money. It seems as though one of Shaft’s friends was running some numbers out of a legitimate business and when he died he left $200,000 unaccounted for. As the thugs discovered this money was missing, they’ve been turning the city upside down to locate that dough. These criminals have been shaking down everyone they think might have information, including the dead man’s widow and even John Shaft himself. Shaft decides to protect his friend’s widow from the ruthless forces, while also getting to the bottom of what happened to his friend. As Shaft delves deeper into this unusual turn of events the stakes keep rising, the danger keeps growing, and the odds keep stacking against him, but if anyone can solve this mystery, it’s the cat they call Shaft.
Entertainment Value: This sequel had some big shoes to fill, given that Shaft was a cultural touchstone and helped take the blaxploitation genre into the mainstream, but I think this is a fun followup. I appreciated the more grounded approach of the original, but Shaft’s Big Score embrace the blaxploitation elements a little more and that results in a more kinetic pace, big action set pieces, and some wild, memorable moments. I am sure some will dislike that this sequel shifts gears to an extent, but this still feels like Shaft, as the character remains faithful to the original, the tone just leans to the wilder side and the scale is taken up a few notches. So make no mistake, this is every bit a Shaft movie, the film just takes some new twists and turns. The tone still isn’t as over the top as some others in the genre, but the emphasis on action is evident and there’s more colorful dialogue in this sequel. The action scenes are a lot of fun and the finale pulls out all the stops for some big set pieces, including Shaft going one on one with a helicopter, which you know is bad ass. In the end, I think Shaft’s Big Score is a fun sequel and one that fans of blaxploitation won’t want to miss.
This wouldn’t be a Shaft movie without Richard Roundtree as John Shaft, so thankfully the man is present here and delivers on all counts. His performance is more wide open this time around, thanks to the groundwork laid in the original movie, so we know he’s a total bad ass before the movie even starts. Shaft’s Big Score lets him kick even more ass the second time around, including car chases, shootouts, fisticuffs, a cemetery showdown, a pursuit on the high seas, and as I mentioned before, a one on one battle against a helicopter. I love to see Shaft in these wild scenarios, as Roundtree handles the action elements well and has the charisma to be cool as hell while he does, so having the dial turned up in this sequel was most welcome. While the movie is tuned a little wilder this time, Roundtree keeps his performance in line with the original and in truth, this feels like a better environment for John Shaft’s brand of cinematic icon at times. The cast also includes Moses Gunn, Julius Harris, and Joe Santos, while Gordon Parks returns to direct this sequel.
The Disc: Warner Archive has given Shaft’s Big Score a newly remastered visual treatment for the film’s Blu-ray debut and this was worth the wait, as the movie looks fantastic. This sequel shares the visual grittiness of the original, but still looks super clean in this release, while the grain and film-like texture remains in place. That is something a lot of remasters manage to imbalance, so kudos to Warner Archive for hitting that sweet spot. This also looks quite refined, thanks to excellent fine detail and a sharpness that puts the old DVD to shame. I think fans are going to be beyond pleased with this new presentation. As for the supplements, this Blu-ray edition includes the film’s theatrical trailer.