Plot: J.J. (Jessie T. Usher) has detective skills in his blood, as both his father and grandfather were private investigators. But J.J. doesn’t know either of them, as his dad John (Samuel L. Jackson) left when he was a kid and while he has sent presents at times, he hasn’t been around since. Now J.J. works at the F.B.I., but not as a field agent, instead he is a data analyst, though his curiosity still runs wild, even though he is stuck behind a desk. When a close friend turns up dead under mysterious circumstances, J.J. decides to look into it, but he quickly realizes he might not be equipped to hit the streets and seek out justice. So he reaches out to his estranged father John, who is surprised to see him, but even more surprised to see how his son turned out. J.J.’s softer persona rubs his father the wrong way, but John agrees to lend a hand and in the process, toughen up his kid a little. But can this odd couple manage to solve the case, especially when it becomes clear things runs deeper than either expected?
Entertainment Value: I like the premise of three generations of Shaft in one movie and while this is more comedic than I expected, I found Shaft to be a fun watch. This might not have the same renegade attitude as the original, but for a high gloss, polished studio picture, Shaft shows its blaxploitation roots more than I anticipated, especially in the finale sequences. The narrative feels at home in the Shaft series, with a crime slant, investigative elements, and of course, some time with the ladies, but this is more about the characters than the plot. The dynamic between old school Shaft and new school Shaft drives the entire movie, a kind of passing the torch, though some audiences might not appreciate how the torch is earned. The young Shaft is toughened up and picks up a lot of traits from his father, while the other way around doesn’t happen much, to say the least. So if you’re hoping that old school Shaft gets woke, you’ll be let down here, as that isn’t the case. The action scenes are well done, despite some low rent CGI blood and I liked how visceral the shootouts here are, this is high impact stuff that really punches up the experience. The dialogue is snappy and bound to offend at times, but this is blaxploitation inspired, so that’s bound to happen. I had fun with this new spin on Shaft and as such, it is recommended.
The cast here is immense fun to watch in action, but I do want to point out an issue I have with Shaft’s marketing campaign. In the trailers, Richard Roundtree is presented as a prominent part of the movie and while he does have some screen time, he is by no means even close to a lead role. He appears toward the finale and his scenes are quite fun, but his role is a smaller, supporting one here. I was thrilled to see him present here, but based on the promotional materials, I was disappointed to see his part wasn’t as prominent as suggested. Roundtree is Shaft to me, so I hoped he was a more central part of this incarnation. The real lead is Samuel L. Jackson, who turns in a dialed up, fun performance and while this seems to be a “torch passing” picture, he easily outshines Jessie T. Usher, the next generation Shaft. So I don’t know how well that passing of the torch worked out here, given that the new Shaft is one of the least interest aspects of his own vehicle. Alexandra Shipp and Regina King have terrific supporting roles as well, so this take on Shaft has a deep ensemble on hand. The cast also includes Titus Welliver, Matt Lauria, and Method Man.
The Disc: Warner Brothers released Shaft on Blu-ray and as expected, the transfer is excellent in all respects. I knew this would look good, but I was impressed with the detail levels here, really remarkable. The fine detail especially shines, with pores, fabric textures, and other subtle visual cues on full display. The colors are bright, contrast is on point, and I saw no digital issues whatsover. This is a top tier, often eye popping visual presentation. The extras here include a promotional behind the scenes piece, a two part look at Shaft’s legacy, a gag reel, and some deleted scenes.