I could argue the artistic merits of the new “Shaft”, but what’s the point? With Samuel L. “mæstro of mother f****r” Jackson as the nephew of the original Shaft, Richard Roundtree (I guess “Nephew of Shaft” doesn’t sound too fierce, maybe they could have called it “Another Shaft” or “Shaft 2K”), all you really care about are two things. Is the new guy one bad “Mutha F-“? Does he looks good while he’s stickin’ it to the MAN?
In this case, the MAN turns out to be “American Psycho” Christian Bale as snotty, rich kid Walter Wade. As the story begins, John Shaft (Jackson) arrives on a murder scene outside an upscale bar as a New York City homicide detective. A black man who arrived with a white woman has been found beaten to death and all signs point to the bratty Walter. A bartender, Diane (Toni Collette), may have witnessed the crime. Immediately after bail is made, Wade, the son of a wealthy power broker, disappears in Switzerland.
Two years later, Walter returns to New York directly into the arms of a highly angry Shaft. When bail is once again granted, the detective chucks his badge and pools his resources to locate the now missing Diane before a freed Wade eliminates the one person who can send him to jail. Complicating matters is frequent Shaft-target, Peoples Hernandez (Jeffrey Wright), a Puerto Rican drug dealer with delusions of “Scarface”. Oh, how will this all end?
The newest “Shaft” is now without some serious problems, but then the original is not exactly “The Godfather”. “Shaft-2K” feels like it starts ten minutes as the story begins without anything to establish what the new guy is all about. Character development isn’t a strong point as director John Singleton depends mostly on the personalities and talents of his cast. The white cops are, at best, racist, and at worst, criminals. Does any of this matter? In the end, you have to ask just one question: Was I entertained? Yeah, it all kind of worked for me. Two hours of Jackson shopping as this character would have been fun to watch, so it’s hard not to like him kicking a*s and clearing house. Updating a very ’70’s film to the 21st century would seem difficult. After the police scandals in both Los Angeles and New York over the last few years, I’m not racial politics have actually changed all that much in the last thirty years. It’s nice to see Richard Roundtree included in the new flick for a sense of continuity, but the most important element of this enterprise is Samuel L. Jackson, always one bad mother f****r.