The worst film of 2000!
Film Review © 2000 by Trip Reynolds
Directed by John Singleton; Screenplay by Richard Price, Shane Salerno. Produced by Scott Rudin.
Starring Samuel L. Jackson (as John Shaft, a pseudo-cool NYPD nephew of the original John Shaft), Vanessa L. Williams (as Carmen Vasquez, NYPD officer), Jeffrey Wright (as the latino bad guy, Peoples Hernandez), Christian Bale (as the super rich Walter Wade Jr., racist murderer of good guy Trey Howard), Busta Rhymes (as the film's Negro comic relief, Rasaan, flunky to Shaft), and Dan Hedaya (as Jack Roselli, the clichéd police official), Toni Collette (as Diane Palmieri, the waitress who disappeared after witnessing Walter, Jr. murder Trey), Philip Bosco (as the super, super rich Walter Wade, Sr., doting father to Walter, Jr.), Pat Hingle (as Hon. Dennis Bradford), Mekhi Phifer (as the murdered Trey Howard), and Gordon Parks, Sr. (in a cameo scene in a lounge), and Lawrence Taylor (as himself), and Angela Pietropinto (as Mrs. Ann Palmieri, mother to Diane), and finally, Richard Roundtree (in a cameo role as John Shaft, the black private dick who's the sex machine to all the chicks - still!)
What an enormous let down! Wesley Snipes was offered this film, read the script, and immediately turned this film down. Samuel L. Jackson either thought the script had greater potential or, and this is more likely, he decided to do the film strictly for the money. Wesley Snipes made the better decision. In fact, around the time Shaft was released "The Art of War," starring Wesley Snipes was also released and as action films go, Snipes appeared in the superior film.
Samuel L. Jackson stars as the nephew to the original John Shaft, Richard (good-looking-Black-man) Roundtree, who has a small cameo in this film. It was a MAJOR mistake to limit Roundtree to a cameo. Film would have been much better if Richard Roundtree had shared equal billing and screen time with Samuel L. Jackson. The script, which is a typical cops and robbers, hunt and chase, wait and catch the bad guy clunker (yawn) etc., etc., etc., falls flat. If the film had actually co-starred Richard Roundtree, the screenwriters would have been forced to produce a more challenging and interesting script.
However, Roundtree (born in 1942) should have been featured as the singular star of this film minus any shared billing. Why? Why not? Although mainstream audiences might not be aware of Roundtree's acting prowess because, unlike his contemporaries Al Pacino (born in 1940), Harrison Ford (also born in 1942) and Sylvester Stallone (born in 1946), Roundtree hasn't appeared in as many "major" Hollywood films in the wake of his celebrity status from Shaft in 1971. Nevertheless, Roundtree has consistently acted in both major theatrical and televised films with positive critical recognition every year since 1971. To cast Samuel L. Jackson (who was born in 1948) who's barely six years younger than Roundtree as the original Shaft's nephew certainly qualifies as a pseudo-incestuous casting mistake. Of course, it's ridiculous to imagine "Hollywood" affording the same casting etiquette to mature Black male actors (Richard Roundtree, Louis Gossett, Jr., Bernie Casey, Al Freeman, Jr., Morgan Freeman), as it does to mature White actors (Pacino, Ford, Stallone, Hoffman, etc.).
Instead of successfully bringing back Shaft and giving this uniquely "Black" film franchise a positive rebirth, this big budget progeny of Gordon Parks' original film series does an excellent job of castrating John Shaft's Blackness. Gone is Shaft's gritty urban instincts. Gone is Shaft's testosterone pumping, super attractive good looks and overt masculinity as the "the black private dick that's the sex machine to all the chicks." Gone is Shaft's [...and I'm just talking about Shaft, can you did it?] - gone is Shaft's urban-Blackness "cool," which was replaced by pseudo-Hollywood cool. On a positive note, at least Isaac Hayes brought back his Oscar® winning theme from the original film's soundtrack.
With the transition of James Bond from actor Timothy Dalton to Pierce Brosnan, Bond regained many of his "Bond-ism" characteristics, which helped the film franchise regain its market dominance ($$$). Bond must be Bond! However, a big budget "Hollywood" film won't allow mass (White) audiences to see a BLACK man in 2003 do what Shaft did to White men in 1971 - specificallly, kick the asses of White men and have on-screen sex with White women. Keep in mind, "Hollywood" wouldn't even allow an Asian man (Bruce Lee) to protray and Asian man in a television series (Kung Fu) written by (Bruce Lee), which was about Asian culture. So, here again, and as frequently mentioned by two-time Academy Award® winner Denzel Washington, as far as Hollywood is concerned, Black men are still NOT allowed to have intimate (naked and intense) love scenes in major motion pictures - the Black man has been "blacastrated" (simply put, "Black man" + "castrate" = "blacastrate"). For all major theatrical films the penis and/or testicles have been removed from the Black man. Therefore, any non-minority [translation: WHITE] actor could have portrayed the role of John Shaft with absolutely the same mediocre result. Frankly, a sequel would probably be more interesting if John Travolta or Nicholas Cage protrayed "John Shaft" in the sequel - but this boring film won't generate enough box office cash to justify a sequel.
Sadly, film is directed John Singleton with a complete absence of the urban-Blackness "cool" established for Shaft by Gordon Parks, and as wonderfully established by Singleton's very first film and urban masterpiece, from 1991, "Boyz 'N the Hood."
Film has a laborious running length of 98 minutes.
Recommendation: Shaft is the worst film for 2000! For better action and adventure, go rent "The Art of War," starring Wesley Snipes.