|Writers:||Kenya Barris, Alex Barnow, Ernest Tidyman|
|Released:||Friday, June 14, 2019|
|Rating:||Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.|
Tim Story (the “Ride Along” and “Think Like a Man” franchises) directs this all-new take on a legend, starring Oscar nominee Samuel L. Jackson (“Glass,” “Kong: Skull Island”), Jessie T. Usher (TV’s “Survivor’s Remorse,” “Almost Christmas”), Regina Hall (“Girls Trip,” “Barbershop: The Next Cut”), Alexandra Shipp (“Straight Outta Compton,” “X-Men: Apocalypse”), Matt Lauria (TV’s “Kingdom,” “Friday Night Lights”), Titus Welliver (“Argo,” TV’s “Bosch”), Cliff “Method Man” Smith (“Keanu,” “Train Wreck”), and Richard Roundtree, the original John Shaft.
JJ, aka John Shaft Jr. (Usher), maybe a cybersecurity expert with a degree from MIT, but to uncover the truth behind his best friend’s untimely death, he needs an education only his dad can provide. Absent throughout JJ’s youth, the legendary locked-and-loaded John Shaft (Jackson) agrees to help his progeny navigate Harlem’s heroin-infested underbelly. And while JJ’s own FBI analyst’s badge may clash with his dad’s trademark leather duster, there’s no denying family. Besides, Shaft’s got an agenda of his own, and a score to settle that’s professional and personal.
The film is produced by John Davis (“Game Night,” “Joy”) under his Davis Entertainment banner.
“Shaft” is written by Kenya Barris (“Girls Trip,” TV’s “Black-ish”) & Alex Barnow (TV’s “The Goldbergs”), based upon the character John Shaft from the novel by Ernest Tidyman. Serving as executive producers are Richard Brener, Josh Mack, Tim Story, Ira Napoliello, Kenya Barris, and Marc S. Fischer.
Story’s behind-the-scenes creative team included director of photography Larry Blanford (“Ride Along,” “Tag”), production designer Wynn Thomas (“Hidden Figures”), editor Peter S. Elliot (“Ride Along 2”), and costume designer Olivia Miles (“Ride Along 2”). The music is by Christopher Lennertz (“Nobody’s Fool,” “Pitch Perfect 3”), and Dave Jorden served as music supervisor.
New Line Cinema presents a Davis Entertainment Production, a Tim Story Film, “Shaft” is set for release on June 14, 2019. It will be distributed in North America by Warner Bros. Pictures, and internationally by Netflix.
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Shaft Theatrical Review
The story begins in 1989 with Shaft (Samuel L. Jackson; Avengers: End Game) wife Maya (Regina Hall; Little) besieged by gunfire with Lil' Shaft, then an infant, in the back seat. Shaft saves the day, but not his relationship with his girl and his son. Maya decides to leave Shaft to protect Junior (Jessie Usher; Survivor's Remorse) as Father chooses business over domestic life. Maya gives her son every (safe) opportunity to succeed, and young Shaft does just that, graduating from MIT and becoming a star data analyst for the FBI. Upon the suspicious overdose death of a troubled yet recently sober friend (Avan Jogia's Karin; Victorious), young Shaft sets out on an investigation that requires the legal and moral grey-area type of work best suited for someone comfortable on the edge of the law. Enter Dad after a thirty-year absence. Upon reaching out to Big Shaft (who has his own motivations in the investigation) son and father enter into an initially tense back and forth that culminates in a wildly entertaining an action-packed ride.
While this fifth installment in the Shaft franchise is well-written and well-cast, it is Jackson that carries the show with his larger-than-life presence and deadpan humor. Crossing busy streets without looking and seeking out tough guys who beat his son, danger is no obstacle to Shaft being Shaft. Usher provides a fantastic performance of as Shaft's offspring. The two couldn't be more different—Junior is trendy, socially awkward, unsure of himself, and not anything close to the lothario his father is. But the chip off the ol' block emerges after a few drinks in a club where, in a fight, Junior dominates his opponent with Brazilian dance-fighting, earning Dad's respect. The back-and-forth between the two is a highlight of the film.
And, of course, it wouldn't be Shaft without an appearance from Richard Roundtree as the original Shaft, who insists on helping the younger two in catching their guys simply because he's "bored." Having barely lost a step, the eldest Shaft holds his own in taking down some bad guys and delivering some hilarity himself. The three generations of Shaft pack quite a punch.
All told, Shaft triumphs because it delivers what the audience expects, but does so in innovative ways. The generation gap provides a perfect convoy to exhibit the set-in-his-ways Jackson to mock an Uber rider, the act of texting, and the necessity of owning a computer ("I've got a system."). The plot was a bit difficult to follow, only because the audience's laughter often dominated subsequent lines. But let's face it, we come to see Shaft to laugh our asses off, not to solve a whodunnit. Come for the comedy, stay for the action. Shaft is a film worth seeing.
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