Plot: The adventures of John Shaft are so well known that even in distant lands the people know just how bad this man is. But he doesn’t let his fame go to his head and he just lives his life from one day to the next. Soon however his life will take a change he won’t soon forget, one that will push him to the limits of his badness. After he prevented some hoodlums from swiping his hubcaps, Shaft heads home to relax from his jogging trek. When a strange man is waiting for him in the elevator, Shaft is cautious and manages to lose him, after which Shaft heads on up to his apartment. But the bad man comes back and soon Shaft is drugged, then left buck naked in a strange location. He passes the strange tests his kidnappers create for him and he learns of his reason for being present. Some men offer Shaft some serious cheddar and a beautiful woman if he will infiltrate a slave ring in Africa, but if he refuses they will kill him on the spot. Since Shaft knows the score he agrees and heads off to Africa to romance the ladies, lay the smack down on the bad guys, and end this brutal slave ring.
Entertainment Value: This one has John Shaft waking up buck naked in a room full of sand and engaging in numerous stick fights, so you know Shaft in Africa is a fun, wild sequel. After Shaft’s Big Score ramped up the action elements, this movie opts to focus on sex, one liners, and a lot of fights with sticks. Like a lot of fights with sticks. So the formula has once again been tweaked a little, but this is still a Shaft movie through and through, with our ultra cool hero in the lead and all the detective work, lovely ladies, and kicking ass you’d expect. And while the shift from an urban setting might feel like a drastic one, the approach works and not only suits the Shaft character perfectly, but opens up new narrative routes to explore. I appreciate the risks taken to take Shaft in new directions and seeing him in a new locale, one so unfamiliar to him, allows for a much different experience. He is still as cool as ever, but his new surroundings ensure some fresh elements to showcase his talents in. I also think the tone is more over the top at times, with more punchy dialogue and quotable moments, as well as Shaft’s persona dialed up a few more notches. I think this proves to be a fun, worthwhile sequel and more than lives up to the series’ reputation.
This sequel brings back Richard Roundtree and as he did in the previous two movies, Roundtree carries the movie and makes sure John Shaft remains one of the coolest characters around. As always, he handles the action scenes well enough and even looks passable in the numerous stick fights, but where he really shines is when he can let his charisma take center stage. Roundtree keeps the character true to the previous movies, but the material lets him add some heightened dimensions, playing up some elements even more than before. This leads to almost James Bond type moments with the ladies, as Shaft plays it cool, but detached and even sends one dead girl off in a boat after sex, since she always wanted to take a boat ride. I always appreciate Roundtree as a performer and he simply commands the screen as Shaft, so I liked seeing him able to bring more to the table this time around. If you want more of Roundtree as Shaft, be sure to look up the television movies based on the Shaft character. The cast also includes Frank McRae, Frank Finlay, and Vonetta McGee.
The Disc: As Warner Archive’s Blu-ray release of Shaft’s Big Score looked excellent, I hoped that trend would continue here and it does, as Shaft in Africa has been given a tremendous treatment. The print looks almost pristine in most scenes, with inherent grain intact, but almost no debris or other signs of time’s tolls. This allows for a sharp, super refined looking image that shows off impressive detail and depth, down to the finest small visual touches and textures. The colors have a natural, but rich presence and contrast is on the mark, so just a top tier presentation. On the extras front, we have the film’s theatrical trailer.