John Shaft
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Biography for
John Shaft (Character)
from Shaft (1971)

The content of this page was created by users. It has not been screened or verified by IMDb staff.

Warning! This character biography may contain plot spoilers.

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(Biographical note: John Shaft was originally played by Richard Roundtree in the 1970s. The character of "Shaft" was reimagined for a movie in 2000 with Richard Roundtree in a supporting role as Shaft. "Shaft" was also the moniker of his nephew, played by Samuel L. Jackson. The credits and photos posted by IMDB may contribute to confusion concerning the character).

Shaft, as described in the movie's theme song, is "the black private dick who's a sex machine to all the chicks." John Shaft operates his own private detective agency in New York City in the 1970s. He's sharply dressed (for the era), quick-witted, and not unsympathetic to some of the hard cases he encounters in the course of his work.

Shaft skillfully navigates a world that is often fraught with racial tension (or downright hostility) in a graceful but firm fashion, playing well with others but standing up for himself when needed and giving as good as he gets. In this respect, the film character differs greatly from the original character in literature, the latter being far less tolerant and open-minded. Shaft must often carefully walk the line between whites, blacks, and a grey area in between represented by those of both races who operate outside the mainstream. In the first film, Shaft must enlist the aid of radical black revolutionaries to help him solve a case for a black crime lord, all the while trying to avoid the appearance of collaborting with the police.

Despite the frequent and tedious legwork Shaft is forced to undertake to solve his cases, he's always able to make time to visit with the ladies. He's not given to small talk and would probably be characterized in modern terms as a "player." By the third film, the story focuses as much (or more) on his prowess as a ladies' man than on his detective skills.

But Shaft is not prone to verbosity where men are concerned, either. In one memorable scene from the first film, a police officer tracks Shaft down in search of urgently needed information and locates him at an eatery. Eager to hear what news Shaft has uncovered, Lt. Androzzi asks, "What did you get?" Shaft's informative answer: "I got laid."

As the film series progresses, Shaft's fame and fortunes expand. By the third film, Shaft is no longer beating the mean streets of NYC but instead is involved in an investigation into modern wage slavery that takes him all over the globe.

John Shaft eventually finds himself with a nephew who also operates under the name "Shaft." In a notable scene where the two characters meet, John Shaft the elder is seen with two attractive women draped over him. The younger Shaft seems more preoccupied with his combat skills, perhaps feeling pressured to live up to his uncle's reputation as "a bad mutha-(shut your mouth!)"

Page last updated by MusicFan95, 9 years ago
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