Directed by John Singleton
Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Christian Bale, Jeffery Wright, Vanessa Williams, Toni Collette, and Richard Roundtree.
Another year older, another year wiser, and another traditional birthday movie. When it comes to the big-time action films of this summer, two were kind of sticking out: Gone In 60 Seconds, and Shaft. Shaft just seemed so much more…cool to me that I knew I had to see it. So, when asked what film to see on my birthday, I ran through the list of what’s been out the longest that I still want to see, and Shaft was at the top of the list. I had a hunch that even my Dad would like, being the kind of old-fashioned detective movie (i.e. Dirty Harry) that he grew up with.
Samuel L. Jackson plays Det. John Shaft, one of the finest on the NYPD. One wintry Christmas, he’s called out to investigate the murder of young black kid by a racist punk/spoiled white kid Walter Wade (Bale). Wade makes bail and skips the country for two long years, while Shaft waits for him to return. When Wade does return, Shaft promptly arrests him and hauls him downtown, where Wade meets up with Peoples Hernandez (Wright), a small-time drug dealer and another nemesis of Shaft’s. When Wade makes bail again, Shaft quits the force in disgust to go after Wade “his own way.” There is one way to bring in Wade once and for all: waitress Diane Palmieri (Collette) saw the whole thing, and only her testimony can put away Wade. But, she was frightened into submission and has been in hiding for the last two years. Wade, then, soon pays of Hernandez to silence Diane permanently, and the race is on between Shaft and Hernandez to find Diane. Of course, Shaft gets help from his former parner, Carmen Vasquez (Williams), and his uncle, the original Shaft (Roundtree).
This movie is…cool. Jackson, as Shaft, just oozes the kind of coolness required for a man to be on the lone pursuit of justice. We’ve got the right blend of typical action-hero one-liners and just plain attitude that makes a great action hero. And I feel that my plot summary does a dis-service to the villain of Hernandez. Hernandez is just so slimy and evil, that when Wade does deal with him, it’s essentially a deal with the devil. For most of the film, it is Hernandez who is the villain, and he’s so good at it. And the film is just so fast-moving! I hardly realized that the whole hour and 45 minutes had gone by! All in all, a very cool summer flick. (And if I say cool one more time, you can do ungodly things to me.)