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John Shaft (Samuel L. Jackson)
Peoples Hernandez (Jeffrey Wright)
Walter Wade, Jr. (Christian Bale)
Rasaan (Busta Rhymes)
Diane Palmieri (Toni Collette)
Uncle John (Richard Roundtree)
Directed by John Singleton Written by John Singleton, Shane Salerno and Richard Price
Rated R for strong violence, brief nudity and language
Running Time: 100 minutes Distributed by Paramount

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Shaft is a well-acted, tinkerly written action film. The film follows the character of John Shaft (Jackson) of the 70’s blaxpolitation films. However, this Shaft is the nephew of the original Shaft (Roundtree). Like his uncle, Shaft is a cop that turns private detective to help innocent people and punish the guilty. The film opens with Shaft becoming vengeful to Walter Wade (Bale), who is a rich young racist that murders a black youth, gets a quick bail and skips town. As the first one to the scene of the murder, Shaft knows that a waitress (Collette) witnessed what happen, but won’t talk. Two years then pass and Wade returns to New York from Switzerland. Shaft quickly arrests him then watches as the court system easily lets Wade off again. Fill with fury, Shaft quits the police force. As a freelancer, Shaft encounters many more enemies and friends on his mission of making sure that Wade pays for what he did.

Shaft is a film that I liked, but there are some loopholes and jumpiness in the film.

John Singleton, Shane Salerno and Richard Price wrote the script for Shaft. In my opinion, the problem with the script was having too many ideas and visions between the three writers forced into a 100 minute script. I am not familiar with Shane Salerno’s previous writing credits, but I am familiar with Singleton’s and Price’s. John Singleton wrote Boyz n the Hood and Higher Learning, while Price has written Clockers and Ransom. There are certain scenes that I noticed had Singleton’s style in it, and others with Price’s style. Price did write the original script for the film, but Samuel L. Jackson and John Singleton didn’t care for his script. If I am not mistaken, Jackson and Singleton thought that Price didn’t capture the “Shaftian theme”. So, Singleton rewrote the script the way he intended the film to be. I could on and on with comparing and contrasting Singleton and Price’s different writing styles, but I won’t. There are some good and underdeveloped characters in the script. One aspect in the script that I liked was making Peoples Hernandez (Wright) the real bad guy. Hernandez is a drug lord that is recruited by Wade to kill the only witness (the waitress) of his crime. Once Peoples is introduced, he becomes the film’s focused villain (A lot of credit should also be given to the actor). Peoples is a better character than the film’s other bad guy, Wade. There are some mistakes in the script, but I do believe Singleton did a nice job with what he had to work with.

John Singleton is a very skillful director. However, Shaft is a different turn for him, he previously directed the powerful human dramas, Boyz n the Hood, Higher Learning and Rosewood. Singleton captures what the “Shaft” story calls for, but I would like to see him directing more dramas instead of action in the future.

Samuel L. Jackson is the only actor of the current Hollywood generation that could pull off the role of Shaft. Wesley Snipes and Don Cheadle were rumored to play Shaft before Jackson signed for the role. I am glad that neither Snipes or Cheadle landed the role. Snipes is an inconsistent actor that would have been out of place. Cheadle is an actor that I like, but he would not be right for the role either. Jackson was a perfect cast and he does an outstanding job. Toni Collette shows nice depth with her role as the frightened waitress Diane. Collette received an Oscar nomination last year for her role in The Sixth Sense; she is an up and coming actress that is ready for some leading parts. Christian Bale continues to show that he plays a good villain as Wade, but don’t forget he has the flexibility to play a hero as well. However, the scene-stealer of the film is Jeffery Wright, who plays Peoples Hernandez. This is the first film that I have seen with Wright in it, and he is a marvel of an actor. He creates a character that is funny and witty, but also very scary. Wright has intense eyes and develops a perfect accent to contribute to his role. I hope to see Wright getting a lot more work in the future. I do know that he is also a stage actor. He won a Tony award for Best Actor for his performance as Belize in Angels in America.

One last very contributable aspect in Shaft is the great theme music by Isaac Hayes. Hayes composed the music for the original Shaft films in the 70’s and returns to add the original theme to this installment. The theme is upbeat, groovy and super cool.

Like I said before, Shaft has good acting, stiff direction and a jumpy script. The film is pretty entertaining and should not have any problem making money at the box office.

Report Card Grade: B-

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