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John Shaft is the ultimate in suave black detectives. He first finds himself up against Bumpy, the leader of the Black crime mob, then against Black nationals, and finally working with both against the White Mafia who are trying to blackmail Bumpy by kidnapping his daughter. Written by
John Vogel <email@example.com>
I first saw this movie three years ago with a bunch of friends. We laughed ourselves to death, and it was the start of a budding interesting in watching poorly made films as a death sport (Trust me, the worse they are, the more they are a battle with your own mortality). In any event, we had a ball laughing at the time capsule elements of the film; the hair, the clothes, the dialogue, and above all as many puns on the name Shaft as we could think of ("Uh oh! The police want Shaft! H'yuck!"). Watching the film now I find it rather interesting; as far as bad movies go, there are movies that are infinitely worse, and as far as good movies go, there are movies that are infinitely better.
Unlike a lot of poor blaxploitation movies I've seen, this one has a decent plot, some interesting characters, and a slick look, as directed by Gordon Parks. They seem to have a pretty good idea how to make a movie. Sure they characters say stuff like "Don't jive me!" but c'mon that was the time. I guess then this film was cutting edge in its own way.
The character of Shaft fascinates me. Here's a character who uses women without remorse and without consequences, treats his one friend like a jerk, uses people, and helps out a ruthless gangster because the price is right. He's also one of the coolest characters ever presented on screen (The comparison to James Bond is actually pretty apt). I love it when a protagonist defies conventions, and man, if ever a character did, it was Shaft.
Still the plot, involving a black mobster whose daughter is kidnapped by the Mafia starts strong but loses steam by the end. The white villains are faceless (A nice change from racist Hollywood movies, but still), and while the film begins with some excellent twists, nothing suprising or very exciting happens in the last half hour. I kept expecting some characters with very questionable loyalties to double cross Shaft, but they never do. The film ends with a raid on an apartment, but the ramifications with the mob, the men who help Shaft, or the police are never shown. In a way, it works cause the film does things the way it wants, but still it's not a very satifying end to things.
I guess now older, wiser, and a tad (Just a tad, perhaps even as much as a smidge) more mature, I can appreciate Shaft as a decent crime flick, with a great (I probably should say "right on") protagonist. And yes, it is campy and out of date, but that adds to the fun. Still, I think it's a better film that I used to give it credit for. Or maybe "shaft" jokes just aren't as funny to me as they used to be.
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