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


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