Nearly 50 years ago, ‘blaxploitation films’ shook up cinemas. A term coined for a series of action/horror films primarily featuring black actors, the genre spawned an entire industry. One of its biggest movies was ‘Shaft’, with Richard Roundtree starring as a sexy police detective punishing evil doers. Based on Ernest Tidyman’s novel and last seen in the 2000 Samuel L Jackson version, ‘Shaft’ returns to revive the cop never taking no for an answer.

After his friend dies in mysterious circumstances, FBI analyst and cybersecurity expert JJ Shaft (Jessie T Usher) investigates. His by the book demeanour is at odds with his father Shaft (Samuel L Jackson). His street smarts and rough attitude puts them at loggerheads. Not helping is JJ’s grand-father, the dangerously stylish Shaft Snr (Richard Roundtree). Together the trio form an unlikely family tree with Harlem’s mean streets no match for the hell the three generations of crime-fighters will unleash upon it.

Under Tim Story’s direction, ‘Shaft’ is a mixed bag. In updating it for new audiences, the script attempts to blend old-school toughness amidst modern sensibilities. It doesn’t always work with scenes of Jackson cutting loose as the always loud and nasty Shaft a big plus. Usher isn’t much of a match, with his nerdy offspring to Shaft’s rugged demeanour more irritating than engaging.

Gone too is an authentic feel with the crooked alleyways looking clean and inviting which isn’t what you’d associate with this type of film. The inter-generational by-play generally works however with the father/son dynamic adding another layer to the Shaft mythology. The screenplay overdoes it with the humour although the action is well realised with Jackson and Roundtree clearly relishing returning for more mayhem.

Describing ‘Shaft’ as a colourful caper with a breezy attitude isn’t what you’d expect. That’s what is delivered with its familiar plot points discarding anything approaching originality. It’s fun viewing although true ‘Shaft’ fans should seek out the previous instalments which showed how good or bad the character could be.

Rating out of 10: 6


6 Underground

Michael Bay is hardly the most subtle director. Nor is he the most venerated, given how low critics often rate his films. Mention the ‘Transformers’ and ‘Bad Boys’ series, people immediately think big spectacle and low intelligence. ‘6 Underground’ is like that but is also lots of fun. Bay has been unrepentant in providing pure commercial fodder, with his latest an over the top action flick done in his the typically over-stated style.

Gray (Ryan Reynolds) is a billionaire who fakes his own death. Wanting purpose in his life, he forms an elite vigilante team taking down criminals that governments can’t touch. Each team member is given a number, including Two (Melanie Laurent) and Seven (Corey Hawkins). Each has special abilities in ensuring their prey is easily caught. One new target is evil dictator Rovach (Lior Raz). With an armada of deadly goodies at their disposal, the numerically afflicted troupe do their best to battle any wicked opponents.

‘6 Underground’ is a mix of the ‘Mission Impossible’ series and ‘The A-Team’. Like those franchises, ‘6 Underground’ isn’t really interested in plot. Making it stand out are the gargantuan production values and incredible action. It’s very much an over the top comic book come to life with glossy visuals reflecting its minimal characterisation and high octane stunts.

This isn’t an actor’s movie with Reynolds and company looking pretty amidst the explosions. They know ‘6 Underground’ is nothing more than cinematic bubble-gum, fun for a while and swiftly discarded at the end. Kudos to Bay for presenting yet another unapologetic thrill-ride with dour critics sure to pour more scorn while Bay’s care factor remains zero.

‘6 Underground’ is the perfect film to see when you don’t want to use your brain cells while watching. It’s extremely silly with nonsensical plotting, performances and direction. Despite all that it’s still an exciting romp if you don’t take it too seriously as occasional dopey viewing like this after a long day is not necessarily a bad thing.

Rating out of 10: 6