Thirty years is a long time to wait to make a sequel, especially when no one is clamoring for one. Director/Writer/Producer John Singleton decided it was about time. The result is a solid, but undistinguished crime drama. The elements of this story have been told so many times that they are becoming hackneyed. A tough, no-nonsense cop fights evil and corruption to bring justice to the streets while often disregarding the law. A spoiled rich kid is trying to get away with murder by hiring a drug dealer to snuff an eyewitness with the help of a couple of dirty cops. This is not vanguard material.
Singleton's direction is good in the action sequences (of which there are plenty) and adequate in the dramatic scenes. In this film, he doesn't bring much innovation to the screen, with very straightforward shots and mundane locations. In an overly reverent gesture to the original film, he brings back Richard Roundtree (the original Shaft) as the current Shaft's (Samuel L. Jackson) uncle and mentor. There is also a cameo appearance by Gordon Parks, the director of the original, and of course, Isaac Hayes theme song is back.
The film is elevated from mediocrity by the acting. Samuel L. Jackson is an outstanding actor and slips on the character of this tough, streetwise cop like a tailored glove. When he's bad, he's very very bad and when he is good, he's almost saintly. Christian Bale also gives a fine performance as the despicable rich kid who thinks his wealth puts him above the law. Jeffrey Wright is explosive as the egomaniac drug lord. The supporting actors are also excellent.
This is an entertaining film despite its lack of originality. I rated it a 7/10. Action junkies add a point or two. This film is extremely violent with a high body count.
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