Shaft - Dir. John Singleton, Starring Samuel L. Jackson
All young lads fantasize
about being an actor when they grow up, especially an action star
of the John Wayne/Steve McQueen variety. After all, these were guys
who lived the life of kids forever, never growing up. They spent
all day shooting villains, jumping off moving trains, karate kicking
henchmen and making sweet love to the ladies. It looks like the
ideal existence when you're a kid. Then you grow up and realized
that most actors are whining, overpaid, coke snorting bisexuals
and the fantasy fades.
Shaft will make you want to be an actor again.
Why? Because Samuel L. Jackson just looks he's having SO MUCH FUN! Blowing away bad guys, driving fast cars, romancing fine women (with the big bootaaays)... you can tell this is the role he's always wanted to play, the role EVERY ACTOR would want to play.
The first Shaft may have been a cultural phenomenon in its day, intertwining Black power and Blaxploitation, but Shaft 2000 seems infinitely better. The original, with its 70's jive lingo and "equality for everyone but the bitches" attitude, dated itself rather quickly. The new Shaft employs themes that are more universal, giving it a larger lease on life.
The most universal theme of all being "ass-kicking" and Shaft has plenty of it. In the face of danger, Jackson's Shaft never falters, and is always acutely aware that he's the most dangerous man in the room. The two villains (Christian Bale and a standout Jeffrey Wright) provide adequate target practice as do a pair of renegade cops (Dan Hedaya and Ruben Santiago-Hudson.)
The second most universal theme, "Makin' love to my woman" seems noticeably absent from Shaft 2000, reportedly to the consternation of Samuel L. Jackson. Granted, he's over 50, but if Woody Allen can appear in his underwear with Elizabeth Shue (as he did in Deconstructing Harry) there's no reason Jackson's Shaft couldn't live up to his namesake and deliver the goods. Despite the lack of real romance, there are still some strong female roles in the film. Vanessa Williams very admirably plays a female cop who looks like cop (not a runway model playing a cop) and Toni Collette is a murder witness on the run.
As I walked out of the theater while leaving the film, I couldn't help but spin around a corner and fire my invisible gun. Shaft just gives gives you the pump (and the pimp) that's needed to make a fool of yourself in public. So if your woman suggests staying in for the evening and watching The Piano, tell her that if she wants the good lovin' later she'll shut her yap and take in the Shaft!