Shaft Review: Jackson’s still great in a truly out of touch sequel.
While Shaft might boast some fun action sequences and comedic moments, as well as the return of Samuel L. Jackson and Richard Roundtree to the titular role, it also shows that the series is outdated and out of touch.
The film follows Shaft’s son J.J. (Jessie T. Usher) as he explores the suspicious death of his friend (Avan Jogia). Though everyone tells him that he just died from a drug overdose, J.J. doesn’t believe this and enlists the help of his father (Jackson) to help uncover a secret drug ring in the middle of Harlem. Due to Shaft being an absentee father to J.J. and the two leading completely different lifestyles, there’s some tension and disagreements that make solving this case quite a task. Nevertheless, the two have work together to figure out what’s happening in Harlem and reconcile as father and son.
The film is at its best when Jackson has a full handle on the wheel as his charm makes even the dullest moments of Shaft much brighter. He perfectly spouts some funny quips and carries a confidently dominating persona that’s a lot of fun to see. He also has some charming chemistry with Usher and Regina Hall, who both also put in some solidly comedic performances. With Jackson and Usher there’s also some decent father-son bonding that’s nice to see, even if it’s mostly just Jackson yelling at Usher for being a humongous weenie. It’s also nice to see Roundtree return to the titular role and he puts in a solid performance that’s fun to see, even if he’s barely in the film.
The action sequences and gun fights are also a pretty fun ride and accent well thanks to the silky smooth score that Shaft is known for. It’s the kind of summer blockbuster fun that audiences want and the action-packed moments are only made better through Jackson’s dominating demeanor. Not to mention, when that iconic funk-filled score kicks in; it’s hard not to think that Jackson is truly one of the greatest bad-asses to grace the screen. The overall story is just fine with the two Shaft men uncovering an underground drug ring in Harlem while also dealing with family issues. It’s definitely not devoid of using clichés and isn’t really the most compelling or original story audiences have seen, but it gets the job done just fine. I also wish there was some better father-son character developments and arcs than the quick wrap-up that’s done here.
However, where Shaft becomes problematic and, honestly, offensive is when it takes its jokes too far. When Jackson’s Shaft makes jokes about transgendered people, Muslims in a mosque being terrorists, and constantly makes fun of J.J. for being not “masculine” in his eyes, the jokes go on for too long and it gets to a point where it feels unnecessarily offensive. If these jokes were told once, they wouldn’t end up being in such bad taste, but it beats in these jokes so hard that it becomes both tiring to listen to and like the film is displaying some sort of agenda that constantly rubbed me the wrong way. This use of offensive humor for awkward laughs actually reminds me of The Mule, and Shaft unfortunately suffers from the same problem in containing outdated and out of touch humor without any sort of reconciliation for its lead character. Not to mention, the film has a very chauvinistic perspective and since there’s never any thought put into the jokes or anything meaning conversations about the perspective, you just leave feeling kind of dirty.
Although Shaft has the looks and charm to be a decent watch, it’s overly offensive and out of touch humor makes it a film that’s tough to recommend. Those going into the film looking for some fun action, fun lines from Jackson, and/or that great score will find it just fine. However, I don’t think many leaving will desire to see anymore from the series or, if you’re like me, for any more of these kinds of performances from Jackson in the future.