In the original films in the early 70s Richard Roundtree was the tough respected private eye from Harlem who pushed his way around even forcing a half dress woman out the door of his apartment. In 1972 Shaft’s Big Score was released and the next year. Shaft in Africa hit the screen in 1973. In June of 2000 a new Shaft played by Samuel L. Jackson filled the screen. He was then known as the nephew to the original Shaft.
Now in 2019 the family is rounded out and Samuel L. Jackson is the son of Richard Roundtree and Jessie T. Usher is Jackson’s son. Roundtree makes his appearance late in the film and takes part in the final action scenes. He looks quite dashing with a white beard and gray turtleneck. But this feature is about Shaft II, played by Jackson.
It all begins in the late 1990s and the opening scene is filled with a violent gun fight in which Shaft II and his wife Maya (Regina Hall) are attacked by drug dealers who shoot up his car. Shaft wins the gun battle but Maya leaves him because of the danger that surrounds his life style as a Private Eye. She is also angry because little Shaft III who is called J.J. (Jessie T. Usher) is in the back seat of the vehicle that is filled with bullet holes when the fight ends. Maya there after keeps her son away from Shaft II until this episode, twenty plus years later.
J.J. (Usher) has been sheltered by his mom and has not seen his father since the gun battle in the opening scene. In fact J.J. works as a technical analysis for the FBI. He does not like guns but late in the film reveals he does know how to use them. As a graduate of MIT he uses skills on systems and the Internet and he is assigned to help uncover what appears to be a problem of Arabs at a certain location where an attack on the U.S. may be under consideration.
The catalyst which brings the Shaft family together is the death of J.J’s friend that is made to look like a drug overdose rather than murder. J.J. heads to his father’s office for help in the Harlem area of New York which his father knows well. How they work together and get grandfather in on the caper are the heart of the film.
Jackson has many great lines, some quite vulgar but they fit the situations. The contrast between the two characters is marked by the educated ivy league dressed son versus the street style carried by dad. All the possibilities are taken advantage of particularly those that refer to sex. Shaft II sees his son who has been parented by Maya as a white boy, J.J. is not sure how to deal with dad. Beyond that J.J’s friend (Alexandra Shipp) is a doctor, which adds to Shaft’s bewilderment about his offspring.
Filled with over the top action, way beyond reality and a smart well delivered script, Shaft 2019 is a good time at the movies.