Cool black private eye John Shaft is hired by a crime lord to find and retrieve his kidnapped daughter.Cool black private eye John Shaft is hired by a crime lord to find and retrieve his kidnapped daughter.Cool black private eye John Shaft is hired by a crime lord to find and retrieve his kidnapped daughter.
** 1/2 (out of 4)
This now classic Blaxploitation film has detective John Shaft (Richard Roundtree) being hired by crime lord Bumpy Jonas (Moses Gunn) to find the men who has kidnapped his daughter. Shaft hits the streets of Harlem to try and locate the girl but soon finds himself running into various mobsters and criminals.
SHAFT was a landmark movie that introduced us to a black private eye, something that hadn't really been seen before and especially not by a large group of people. Another thing that this movie introduced was a certain toughness and a certain coolness that would become the template for all future Blaxploitation movies. SHAFT was a hit with both white and black audiences back in the day and it's easy to see why but overall I thought the film had way too many flaws to be a complete success but there's no question that fans of the genre will still need to see this.
There are many very good things working for this film including the performance of Roundtree who was certainly born to play this type of role. A lot of characters and actors try to play it cool but more often than not you just roll your eyes and feel as if you're watching some actor who got picked on all his life trying to pretend to be cool. With Roundtree you really do feel as if you're watching someone who controls everything he does and does whatever he wants when he wants. He certainly pushes that cool tough guy image that works perfectly well here. Gunn is also entertaining as the crime boss as is Charles Cioffi, Lawrence Pressman and Christopher St. John.
Another positive is, of course, the now legendary music by Isaac Hayes. Another fun thing is just getting to see all the old streets of New York including countless theatres showing now classic movie titles. With that said, the biggest flaw with SHAFT is its actual story, which is just too boring and it's just not all that interesting. There are way too many scenes that just drag on and there's no question that ten minutes could have easily been cut and it would have helped the film. Still, SHAFT is what it is and its reputation and coolness factor alone makes it worth watching.
- Jun 15, 2015