It's always interesting when someone from your formative years, an icon for the fight against an oppressive, cold, unjust and unfeeling society, is remade. The "field", as it were, is ripe for raising a really awful crop. Remakes of older films tend to not do so well (as in The Haunting, The Absent-Minded Professor, etc.) when held up to the light of today. However, once in a while, someone comes along who figures out how to play the "update" game and make it work. His name is ("Shaft?", I hear you cry, no no…) John Singleton.
Shaft, which is written, produced and directed by noted Hollywood filmmaker John Singleton, makes his entry into what must become the "Carte blanche" club in the movie-making industry. This is a remake that will please both sides of the coin. For those who are fans of the action-adventure film of the last decade or so, it has all the elements you've come to expect from franchises like the Lethal Weapon and Die Hard films. For those who are fans and devotee's of the original film & original feel of the 70's "blaxploitation" films, you won't be disappointed either. The film runs as an homage to the original, featuring Richard Roundtree in a supporting role, and a cameo by the director of the original 1971 Shaft, Gordon Parks, completes the feel.
In this version, Samuel L. Jackson is John Shaft, nephew to the original John Shaft (played by Richard Roundtree, as if anyone else could even come close) who is still in the Private Detective game. Jackson's Shaft is a detective on the NYPD who gets suspended for dishing out some poetic justice to a spoiled little rich boy names Walter Woods (Christian Bale) after an ugly incident. Two years later, after another run-in with the same obnoxious rich-man's son, Shaft resigns in disgust, vowing to bring him to justice on his own. The rest, as they say, is history. Supported by partner, and then ex-partner, Carmen (Vanessa Williams) and backed up by street friend Rasaan (Busta Rhymes), Shaft sets about righting this particular wrong as only one of the Famliy Shaft could possibly do, and helping out a few others along the way.
The music, featuring the fabulous Isaac Hayes re-doing the original Theme from Shaft, provides the theme for the film from opening credits. The film itself is your typical shoot-em-up, granted, but Jackson's Shaft exhibits such amazing style and calm, the film has a much more relaxed feel to it. Never once does Jackson's Shaft (or Roundtree's Shaft, for that matter) exhibit anything but a pure, unruffled calm, even in the middle of the inevitable firefights that are sure to erupt in these sorts of films. While not anything overly original as far as the overal film genre goes, the performances by Jackson, Rhymes and Roundtree make this a must see.
Parents Note: This is an R-rated film, for a reason. While there is no sexual activity in the film, the language, while appropriate and well-delivered, is on an adult scale, so think twice before taking anyone under high-school age to see it. (I figure that, by the time they've hit high school, they've heard this sort of language being bandied about, so you might as well let them see how to use it with style as opposed to the schoolyard, bottom-scale variety. ;)
I give this film a grade equivilent to the name, ShAft. If you like action-adventures films, you'll like this. If you liked the original Shaft saga, you'll like this. If, like me, you enjoy both, you'll adore this, both for the film it is, and the homage it became.