This is a second reboot of the original Shaft film, focusing on the third generation of Shafts - John Shaft Jr. (Jessie T. Usher). In this film, we meet John Shaft Jr. (JJ), an FBI data analyst who grew up with his mother Maya (Regina Hall). Despite not having a relationship with his father, when JJ’s best friend Karim (Avon Jogia) dies under suspicious circumstances, JJ seeks out his father, Shaft (Samuel L. Jackson), to help find out the truth about Karim’s death. This film is directed by Tim Story, and written by Kenya Barris and Alex Barnow.
Plot line: 7/10
Due to Shaft’s violent lifestyle, Maya left him to protect and raise JJ. This film explores the relationship with JJ and his father Shaft, when they are reunited in their quest to figure out what happened to Karim. Shaft, a private detective who is rough around the edges and a symbol of hypermasculinity, is juxtaposed with JJ’s respectful, calm demeanor. This contrast is a central feature of the entire film, and as the film goes on, it seems to draw the viewer’s attention to the surprising traits Shaft and JJ have in common despite their contrasting dispositions. For example, despite not being a ‘guns person’, JJ is extremely skilled at wielding a gun - just like his father. The father-son aspect of the plot was executed successfully, bringing some humour to the film and creating room for character development with both Shaft and JJ.
The entire film is about JJ and his father finding out what happened to Karim, not enough time is actually spent showing the viewer the nuts and bolts of the organisations being investigated, and the details regarding the crimes being committed. Due to the numerous parties involved, little time is provided to get acquainted with the villains in the film. More could have been done to balance out the focus of the plot line between the investigation of Karim’s death and the parties involved, and the relationship between JJ and Shaft. The crime aspect of the plot seems to be glazed over, and underexplored. An example of the underdeveloped plot is the beef between Shaft and drug lord Gordito (Isaach de Bankolé), who Shaft blames for his separation from JJ due to Gordito’s attack on Shaft, Maya, and baby JJ which we see at the beginning of the film. This longstanding feud is only slightly discussed at the very end of the film, thus it seems rather sudden and inorganic.
At times, the script was humorous and entertaining. However, the dialogue also perpetuated certain negative black male stereotypes, such as Shaft joking about being an absentee father, and complaining that JJ is ‘too white’. There were also a few homophobic, misogynistic, and generally derogatory comments from Shaft, which detracted from the quality of the dialogue.
This film seems like an ode to Samuel L. Jackson, as his strengths as an actor, such as his skilled gun action and sarcasm, shone through in his role as Shaft. Given that the focus was on Shaft and JJ in this movie, there was less room to appreciate the other actors’ abilities, however a notable mention is Alexandra Shipp, who portrayed Sasha, JJ’s love interest, in an entertaining manner.
Overall, this movie was moderately entertaining, and the fascinating special effects in the action scenes were a considerable plus, however the derogatory discourse detracted from the success of the movie as a whole. Additionally, the crime aspect of the plot could have been better developed.