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The Work = ***
That instant recognition is probably what lead to a big studio making a big budget remake of 'Shaft' in 2000. Going to see it in the theater was a fun experience as I recall. I remember seeing it with a close friend of mine and we got there a little late. The place was packed and the audience was locked into the movie; cheering at parts, yelling at others, and applauding when Shaft did something cool. All told it was a pretty fun little viewing.
Now after having watched the film for the first time in five years for this review, I can say my feelings are mixed. 'Shaft' is not a bad film, it is just an ok one. What is a bummer about it is watching the film it seemed as if a really great one was hidden somewhere in the material. I think what it needed was either to A) be grittier like a Michael Mann movie (such as 'Heat',) or B) more over the top like say Michael Bay’s 'Bad Boys II'. If the film had gone in either direction it could have been one intense movie. As it stands it feels sort of, how do you say? Watered down?
Hell, even compared to the original 'Shaft' it seems a bit on the tame side. The original was not the most extreme movie but it did have Shaft acting as a sex machine and it seemed a bit bloodier despite having a lower body count. Part of the reason for the remake’s somewhat tame nature may be do to it being a major studio project. In fact, I recall reading about numerous problems during production and I have read that the cut of the film that was released was not the one preferred by it’s director, John Singleton. (On the features of the DVD there are clips from scenes cut from the film, most notably a confrontation towards the end of the film between Shaft and the films yuppie villain, Walter Wade, Jr.)
So the film is watered down but it is not a total loss. Some sequences work well and Samuel L Jackson talks the talk and walks the walk as Detective John Shaft. Vanessa Williams is a real surprise as Officer Carmen Vasquez. She has a quiet authority and plays probably the most “real” police officer in the film. The underrated soon to be 'Batman', Christian Bale plays a great villain that you want to see go down. The equally underrated Jeffrey Wright plays a low rent gangster Peoples, who provides some of the best moments in the film.
Richard Roundtree pops up as Uncle John Shaft. It’s a neat cameo but it made me wish he was given a real part instead. The thing is, the man’s still got it and he could have done with a meatier role. He really should be staring in some sort of crime drama tv series or film.
So, the film is not what it could have been. Somewhere in it is a killer crime drama flic’ but this isn’t it. Scenes and performances rise above the film but as a whole it still a fairly mediocre picture. That does not make it bad though and you may just find it an entertaining diversion.
DVD = ***
All together = ***
Copyright 2005 - 2012 Nate Bundy. All rights reserved.