REVIEW: Shaft still has swagger, but sags a bit too much to hit high notes

Watching Samuel L. Jackson as a hard-nosed P.I. in Shaft is as special now as it was two decades ago in the 2000 remake.

What gets lost in translation are the changing views on misogyny, homophobia, and what constitutes humour. After 20 years, much of Jackson’s foul-mouthed observational humour as a former cop above the law feels dated – the musings of a man still stuck in the 1980’s.

It’s a shame that while this family-buddy cop actioner makes some keen observations skewering the “woke” millennials represented in the film by Shaft’s son (Jessie T. Usher), it fails to update its treatment of women and minorities to the modern age.

Did I laugh? Often. The first few metrosexual, female-oriented curve balls were funny, but after 120 minutes, they grown stale.

The need to grab low-hanging fruit is offensive, not because of the jokes, but mostly because proud, black man Kenya Barris, who created ABC gem Black-ish, wrote this thing. It’s hard not to feel like with a little more effort, he could of done so much more.

In fact, while three generations of Shaft men (son Usher, father Jackson and original 70’s star, grandfather Richard Roundtree) are on board, it’s an actress we wish to see more of.

Regina Hall – as Jackson’s ex and the mother of his child – is a comedic force and incredible addition to any film. I was left wishing she had just a little bit more to do.

Jessie T. Usher is funny and congenial, but he doesn’t hold a candle to the brooding, smart-talking, smooth-walking screen presence of the elder Samuel L. Jackson.

One thing that can be said for this film is, while a wholly unnecessary sequel, Jackson makes this film consistently watchable, even if it’s not always politically correct.

He’s a dynamite, debonair movie star who elevates this sequel, even if he has no real formidable opponent like he did in Christian Bale for Shaft 2000.

It’s a little silly, a whole lot of crude, but in the end, Shaft glides by on the cool charisma of Jackson, the goodwill for Richard Roundtree, and the hope that naturally enjoyable actors like Jessie T. Usher can foster in a new generation of slick, interesting – and respectful – heroes.

3/5 Stars

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