Critic Reviews



Based on 31 critic reviews provided by Metacritic.com
The movie is product, but by the end you want to see this team again.
Though there is a comforting nostalgia from seeing the Shaft men stick it to the man while simultaneously holding on to their old-school alpha-male swagger, Junior’s presence adds a much needed reproach — and smartly comedic element — that ultimately doesn’t blame them but instead makes them take a hard look at the error of their ways in the face of justice.
To listen to Jackson doing street talk is akin to reveling in Olivier reciting Shakespeare — in other words, it's one of the great pleasures of the language. Edit the film down to his dialogue and you have a wonderful greatest hits collection.
I appreciate the direction they wanted to take this, but the jokes needed work, the ridicule should be more directed at Jackson’s character’s various blind spots and intolerances — “This is my ‘Puerto Ricans I don’t trust’ file.” — and disrespect for human rights.
Among all the cardinal sins of moviemaking it commits (up to and including reusing an iconic needle drop from a Martin Scorsese movie), the worst is this: It makes Shaft look uncool.
What we have here is a standard-issue comedy-tinged crime thriller indifferently directed by Tim Story (the “Think Like a Man” and “Ride Along” movies). Its nothing-special plot, the product of writers Kenya Barris and Alex Barnow, features ill-defined villains and briefly touches on Islamophobia and military veteran PTSD and drug abuse — and never follows up on any of those issues.
How jokes this offensive can make it to the screen in 2019 is beyond comprehension and a bit of a shame, considering that this has so much else going for it including a delightful late-game appearance by the original Shaft, Richard Roundtree, who looks fantastic, by the way.
While that can be entertaining at times, Shaft mostly reads as an oddly sexless, convoluted, and downright dull continuation. It’s as if the creators are afraid to take the character seriously in an age of ironic detachment. It’s a missed opportunity, particularly at the chance to comment on how being a “complicated man” has evolved since 1971, and how the world has never simply been black and white. Oh, well.
The plotting is so leaden and the fire fights so pro forma that not even the sight of the three Shafts in action can keep this film from sinking under its own weight. Yes, the great Isaac Hayes music makes an appearance, but the old days are gone and they are not coming back.
Tim Story takes a classic movie franchise and drains it of all the action, sex and topicality that made it worth revisiting in the first place. Jackson, Roundtree and Usher have star power to spare but they’re asked to perform embarrassing and ignorant comedy routines, and the action is so unremarkable that the movie can’t even rely on that spectacle to compensate.

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