Review by J.T. Johnson
There is nothing good about this latest addition to the “Shaft” franchise. The latest film completely strips away any connections to the franchise’s blaxploitation roots and, instead, they make a generic buddy cop action/comedy. It also feels extremely out of date as the movie tries to satisfy everyone yet it ends up entertaining no one.
The new film mostly follows “JJ” Shaft (Jessie Usher), the third generation of the Shaft family and the son of John Shaft II (Samuel L. Jackson). After his father seemingly abandoned him in 1989, JJ becomes a data analyst for the FBI that hates guns and violence. The younger Shaft is so seemingly weak that the character is almost as annoying as Usher’s terribly dull and silly performance.
So, how about Jackson’s Shaft? Well, in this film he’s nothing more than an oversexed and outdated character. He hates that his son is one of these pansy millennials that’s always politically correct. Also, when I say that the character is outdated, I mean that he is a misogynistic and mean man that is also more than a little homophobic, as is seen in several scenes where he questions his son’s sexuality just because the younger Shaft isn’t out sleeping with every woman he meets.
The way these two characters meet back up is after JJ’s friend is murdered and he needs help solving the case. JJ reluctantly goes to his father who is now a private investigator and still known as something of a legend in Harlem. Just like Jackson’s character, the movie’s story is an overly generic plot where one of the characters is trying to bring his friend’s murderers to justice.
With these two very different versions of Shaft, we’re introduced to the extremes on both sides. JJ is the generic and weak millennial that older people who watch Fox News like to generalize about while John II is a over-the-top politically incorrect baby boomer that millennials like to complain about. While the film does try to show that there’s more to each of these characters by the end of the movie, it really doesn’t say much about either generation to have any meaningful impact.
But what about the action? Maybe that could be the film’s saving grace. Sadly, this is another weak point for the movie. The action sequences, including the climactic shootout at the end, are so generic and forgettable that I would challenge you to remember them by the time the credits finish rolling.
Even the music sucks in this movie. Composer Christopher Lennertz turns in an incredibly mundane score that only barely uses some of the instrumental music from Isaac Hayes’ iconic theme song. The reason they wouldn’t use the classic theme makes me wonder if they thought it was either too out of date (which would be ironic for a story that is itself so out of date) or if they couldn’t get the full rights to the song.
To be honest, though, I’m kind of glad that they couldn’t get Hayes’ theme song. Its absence in the movie shows what a shell of a movie this latest addition really is. I was concerned before going in about the movie’s marketing that only showed us a few scenes and little else. Sadly, I can confirm that there is nothing better to be found in this film that will now go down as one of the worst films of 2019.