Samuel L. Jackson
Vanessa L. Williams
|"I see you someplace I don't think you belong...I will kill you."|
|Time: 99 mins.|
Having never seen the original SHAFT, I had no preconceived notions of what to expect from this film...except quality. Yes, I knew John Shaft, the lead character was supposed to be a detective who's "popular" with the ladies, but I got that from the song. Other than that, I figured with John Singleton at the helm, Samuel L. Jackson as Shaft and Christian Bale as the villain, this was going to be one excellent movie. Of course, when it opened with a whimper and no one was talking about it, I decided not to rush out. Having seen all the other summer blockbusters, I decided to give it a chance. Jackson is always worth watching, just not in this case, for full price. This film has so many problems I don't know where to begin. However, I was confused as to why they would call this a remake, when Shaft is a cop and he only sleeps with one woman. I wanted mystery, violence and sex, not a celibate lawman. Even in these PC times, James Bond still drinks and has meaningless sex. What happened to the cool, sex machine, private dick?
He must have gone on vacation. Which is not to say that Samuel L. Jackson wasn't sexy and cool. He oozes those qualities naturally. It's that everything and everyone around him, just weren't worth the celluloid. I've seen cartoons with more complicated plots and fleshed out villains. Chistian Bale and Jeffrey Wright try to give their characters some panache, but there's really nothing for them to hang their hats on. Yes, they're both mean and powerful, but so what. They're playing in Shaft's pool and it's apparent from the beginning that he's going to win, no matter what they try to do. These guys are punks, so out of Shaft's league I couldn't believe they were the bad guys. The plot, what there is of one, is so devoid of any intrigue or depth it's astounding someone bothered to put it on paper.
You know from the beginning who the killer is and then you're basically forced to wait as Shaft tries to bring him to justice. Which is never going to happen because he's the son of a very wealthy man who apparently has the entire court system in his back pocket. The crime is so brutal and lacking in motivation, that you're left feeling more empty than anything. To feel anything for the victim and hatred for the killer I needed more, a reason beyond the killer just being a rich, violent bastard. I know the newspapers are filled with just such senseless brutal murders, but they don't make movies out of those for a reason. It's called no suspense. If Shaft is supposed to be a good detective, let him detect. He's handed the killer on a silver platter and we're supposed to applaud his skills? Yes, he uncovers the hiding place of the crimes' only witness, but she was staying with relatives, so how hard was that. There are a couple of gun battles between the good guys and the bad guys over possession of the witness, but seeing as they're the only real action sequences in the film, it was too little too late.
Jackson, by some miracle, manages to keep the film interesting while he's onscreen, but barely. He has the swagger and all the good lines and for the first hour he kept me interested. However, after awhile, even zippy dialogue can't save a sinking ship. I read that the plot changed during production after the filmmakers saw how amazing Jeffrey Wright was performing. Maybe they should have stuck with the original story. It's obvious from the choppiness of the film that key scenes and information were left on the cutting room floor. It's not a good idea to switch villains once you're already filming. The women, Vanessa Williams and Toni Collette, were completed wasted. Collette has some decent scenes, but nothing that will help her career. Williams was given so little to do, I can't see why her character was even in the film. If you're a fan of Jackson's either see this at a discount matinee or what for video. Otherwise, this is one to miss.