Shaft (2019): Review by @Kush_Hayes
An FBI Analyst is contacted by a friend of his who is a recovering drug addict and a war vet, asking if they can “talk”. They connect, and before the primary mystery subject can be talked about, the war vet suddenly has to leave, but not before small talk is made to create exposition for the audience. The next day the war vet is found dead due to an overdose with enough drugs in his system to have killed 5 men. The Analyst suspects foul play especially when it turns out the war vet was also attending a mosque his team just happens to be monitoring for any illegal activities after some suspicious incidents. While investigating his friends death, the analysts own boss removes him from the case and when he cant work within the law, he goes to the best detective who can work outside of the law to get the results he needs. John Shaft (II). They go on to discover a conspiracy between a War Vet Non-Profit and a notorious drug kingpin from north of 139th St no one has seen in 25 years.
If that sounds interesting and exciting, it is… however it also the side story so Sam Jackson can make jokes about “pussy” and about how much of a square Jessie Usher is while bickering with Regina Hall.
The last time we saw a version of Shaft was 2000 and while there is no real “cannon” or lore for Sam Jacksons character, its hard to believe his character has been an irresponsible alcoholic who only cares about his coat and his car. And while a lot can change over 19 years, people dont generally downgrade as they get older. However the writers Kenya Barris and Alex Barnow would try to ret-con that by starting our story in 1989, 11 years before the events of Shaft (2000) and somehow Sam Jackson is already a detective, and still 40-ish. In Shaft 2000, while he does drives, it wasnt necessarily his car, and none of them were a 1972 Chevrolet Chevelle. Yet they LEAN in on this car being a thing. Other details we ret-con, Richard Roundtree is now Sam Jacksons Father. Which makes me beg the question, who was Richard Roundtrees sibling and why would Mom name the child after “his uncle” to whoever the father was supposed to be? Despite being at least 30 in the year 2000, Sam Jackson doesnt know how to use the basic functions of a computer. Despite being a real cop in 1989, somehow operates on a cash only basis. And then while trying to make some attempt to stay in his sons life, hes sending him condoms, guest passes for strip clubs and pornography for birthdays and holidays?
Im not sure what point is trying to be made with Jessie Ushers character. His character is an FBI analyst, but they give him a badge. He is not authorized to carry a gun, but hes an expert marksman all while saying, “I hate guns”. He has no spine and gets easily intimidated by children, but is then doing Capoeira on dudes twice his size - when its convenient. At several points Usher emotes to Jackson about being “Abandoned as a child” and maybe thats what Regina Hall tells him growing up, but Jackson never defends himself because what actually happens is Ushers mom leaves Jackson. Its a whole part of the credit montage. Its quite confusing everytime its addressed but never corrected. It might actually help redeem this broken character that Kenya Barris and Alex Barnow have bastardized and displayed as a degenerate.
Im amused by how many movies on director Tim Storys IMDB page Ive actually seen. Excluding the two Kevin Hart comedy specials, the two Fantastic Four movies are probably his biggest movies, but just behind Barbershop, Shaft 2019 might be his best movie. There are a handful of scenes that are really well done, and entertaining to watch. And its seeing those that make me go back and wonder what happened to the story in this movie. This would have probably served better as a sequel to Undercover Brother which was just slightly more cartoony than this edition of Shaft was. Hell, a sequel to 1996s A Low Down Dirty Shame would even be a better platform for this story, but even Shame had full detective story with real twists turns and consequences for actions - much like four years later in Shaft 2000.
You have a platform to talk about how our soldiers are treated after finishing their service from war. You have a platform to discuss what our soldiers of Muslim faith experience, not just from their own servicemen, but from their family and community. You had an opportunity to execute an interesting fictitious story about conspiracies and organized crime/drug trafficking and you treat it only as a thread. You have an opportunity to create a new character who not only can handle himself in combat but is intelligent, cultured and just executes good manners and common sense but you portray him as a spineless buffoon and a contradiction. You have a character, based/adapted from an earlier iconic character who can also handle himself in combat, was intelligent, cultured and had good manners and common sense, but you made him a parody and a drunk.
But regardless of all I wrote above, most of the small audience I was watching this with on its Friday (afternoon) release, really enjoyed themselves throughout this 1hr 54 min run time.
Much like Superman, Im a huge fan of this [Warner Bros] character. And much like Superman, they have really botched what this character was. Unlike Batman v Superman which really made me angry, Shaft Five, Shaft 2019, Netflix Shaft, only really irritates me.
Fuck this movie.
One out of Six Blueberries.