US, 2019, 111 minutes, Colour.
Samuel L.Jackson, Jessie T.Usher, Richard Rountree, Regina Hall, Alexandra Shipp, Matt Lauria, Titus Welliver, Method Man, Isaach De Bankole, Avan Jogia, Luna Lauren Velez.
Directed by Tim Story.
Once upon a time, almost 50 years ago, a slick-talking investigator called John Shaft made quite an impact on the American semi-going public, especially the African-Americans?. It was part of the introduction to a number of black heroes of the period, crime dramas, investigations and tough tactics, action films that are looked back on with appreciation after 40 or more years. Richard Rountree was John Shaft – and made another film, Shaft in Africa.
At the beginning of the new millennium, Hollywood thought it was a good time to have another Shaft film. From the screenplay of the 2000 Shaft, it seemed that Richard Rountree was the uncle of the new hero, the new John Shaft, and who better than Samuel L.Jackson? More of the same in glossy style, plenty of action, and directed by John Singleton who had made a number of significant films about African-Americans? in the 1990s.
In the screenplay for the 2019 Shaft, it seems that Richard Rountree is actually Samuel L Jackson’s father. And, here is a next generation, John Shaft Jr. So, there is a bit of explaining to do. Back we go into the 1990s, Shaft senior and his wife (Regina Hall) coming under heavy fire from a gang of drug dealers. And their baby son is in the back seat. It seems too much for his wife, so Shaft goes on his way, leaving his wife to bring up their son (and, in a collage of gifts, sending inappropriate presents for the boy’s birthday).
Which leads us to the present day, John Shaft Jr (Jessie T.Usher) who could not be more unlike his father if he tried (it would seem that his mother did her best that her son be not like his father). And we certainly see the differences between the 1970s, the 1990s and the present. John Jr is a walking millennial – his education, his cultured manner, his style of clothes, music, language, disdain of guns, working for the FBI but at a desk, data being the object of his investigations. What will happen when the two meet?
On the one hand, there is the expected crime investigation, a follow-up from that initial car shootout from the 1990s, warnings about Islamaphobia and suspicious money dealings at a mosque in New York, huge drug deals with vehicles repatriated from Afghanistan and bringing in loads of heroin, friendships and betrayals, thugs in the street, drug bosses, money-laundering, hits issued on both father and son. This happens when Jr’s best friend is killed and he begins an investigation while being put down by the FBI boss (TVs Hieronymus Bosch himself, Titus Welliver). So far, what was expected.
But, of course, so much of the film is about the bonding, the contrast between father and son, the dialogue, some even throwing guns out the window (but, of course, turning out to be a perfect shooter). There is the visit to the mosque and the different dealings in how to dialogue. There is exasperation of the father, his Samuel L.Jackson style, language, relationships (though still pining for his wife), Is Learning to live in an IT world while still appreciating that personal contacts, phone at most, are more effective than texting! So, a lot of banter amidst the action.
John Jr is millennial reticent in his dealings with his girlfriend (Alexandra Shipp).
So much happening while we wait for Richard Rountree to turn up – as he does, not just in a mere cameo, but some humorous comment as well as definitely getting into the action, all three in the mayhem shootup.
Iconic being as the three, similarly dressed, stride out into the traffic, ignoring the oncoming cars.
1. The generations of the Shaft family? From the 1970s to the 21st century?
2. The change in style from the 70s to the 21st century, the visualising of action sequences, violence? The role of blacks and whites? The role of the law, Private Investigators? The different clothes, the music styles, manner of speaking?
3. The Millennia’s, their education, attitude towards violence and guns, the Me Too Movement and attitudes towards women, the developments in data gathering and cyber skills?
4. The dialogue between the generations, fathers and sons, old style and modern developments? Clash, complementarity?
5. The opening in the 1970s, Shaft, his relationship with his wife, the drug leader and the attack, the shooting the car, the baby in the backseat? Shaft and his quest, the 25 years? His leaving his wife, her love for Shaft, but the dangers, and bringing up their son?
6. The visualising of the years passing, Jr as a baby, child, growing up, and the gifts from his father – useful or not?
7. The 21st century, John Jr and his working for the FBI, well educated, terrorists, Islamophobia, drug issues? His cyber skills, data gathering? His offering to be an agent, rejection by the boss?
8. John Jr and his age, education, earnestness, the epitome of trends, the touch of mockery towards the Millenniums their clothing style, trendy foods? His relationship with Sasha, her work at the hospital, his reserve towards her? Meeting Frankie, the discussion, the bond between them, memories of the past, his war service, drug addiction? The news of his death? The enquiry, his offering to be the lead agent, his being put down?
9. His going to solve the case, getting the information from the boy in the street, paying, Manuel and the thugs? The confrontation, his being bashed? His decision to go to his father for help, the office, the receptionist, the women, his father amazed to see him? Their talk, styles, opposites? His father making the link with his own case and the drug dealers? Helping his son, yet using him? The visit To Manuel and the thugs, the shooting, the interrogation, Manuel fleeing? Going to the club, his contact, getting the information?
10. The visit to the mosque, interrogation, the Imam his hostility, his daughter and her relationship with Frankie? Their being ousted, Frankie and the building, the developments? The documents, the lead about the money, the money laundering? The visit to Benny, her hostility? Her setting hits on them and the attacks, the shootings? Jr leaving the camera on her desk? The evidence?
11. Shaft, his style, relationship with his wife, the years of gifts, his relationship with women? Investigator? Language? Taking Jr to the club, the girls, the drink and the dancing, the aftermath?
12. Going to the organisation, Brothers helping Brothers? Suspicions, Frankie and his role, veterans from Afghanistan, the interrogation, suspicions? Cars coming back from Afghanistan, for repair, hiding the drugs? The links with Benny, the mosque as a cover? Frank and comfortable, his death?
13. John Jr’s mother, his not wanting her to know he was with his father? The date? The gentleman friend? Shaft at the restaurant, the conversations, her trying to avoid him? The shootout? Getting the date’s car? Going to the restaurant, John and his being with Sasha, the meal? The assassins, the shootout, John and his shooting skills, yet not wanting the gun? Previously throwing guns out the window?
14. Going to see Shaft’s father, a cameo by Richard Roundtree, age, experience, wisecracks, action? His armoury? Sasha and the abduction? Going to the building, the technology, the elevator, the tricks and the attack?
15. The mayhem, the criminals, Sasha, her being saved, the shootout? The confrontation with the drug boss, Shaft taking the bullet for his son, the drug leader shot, out the window and falling to the ground?
16. John Jr as the hero, going back to the FBI, some self-satisfaction, his refusing the promotion? Not wanting to work for “the man”?
17. The three generations walking the street – iconic?