It's all well and good to carry a story and poignant message, but without the proper vehicle to carry that message, it will go unheard. Entertainment. Ultimately, it's the one pursuit that I feel all humans seek. And it's certainly no crime to do so. The need to be entertained is the price we pay for our upper eschelon existance; when day-to-day survival is assured, what else is there?
So what does all this babble have to do with this week's movie review? Shaft, a remake of the 70s movies of the same name, has nothing profound to say. The title character is the only one of any depth, and it's certainly nothing to speak of. There are no deeply hidden themes or revelations to spark an epiphany, and I defy anyone to walk out of Shaft a better person. But it succeeds admirably in its primary goal to entertain.
Shaft is basically your average action movie, it's almost textbook in its plot layout. A few convenient events aside, it's also fairly tight in its storytelling. And, of course, there's plenty of action. Chases, both in cars and on foot, gunfights, fistfights ... A few more explosions and you'd have it all. But what makes Shaft stand out from being Just Another Action Flick would be its star, Samuel L Jackson. Anybody whose seen the man work knows already what I'm talking about. Jackson has a certain something which I can only define as the cliched "presence." He lends this presence to each of his characters, creating an aura of believability even amidst reality suspension. Perhaps more importantly, Jackson has a charisma that makes his characters eminently likable, even as they're doing fairly unlikable things (I site Tarentino's Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown as perfect examples). In Shaft, of course, Jackson is the good guy, but he still mounts a pretty impressive body count before the movie is over.
I had, initially, considered going into an examination of some of Shaft's themes ... Not relying on the system, taking care of yourself and your friends, and, of course, racisim and its less-exposed friend reverse-racism. But after some thought, I don't think I will. In this case, I feel that looking at such themes cheapens what the primary reason that Shaft was recreated: To be fluffy eye-candy. Movies, for me, tend to fail miserably when they try to be something that they're not, and perhaps that's why Shaft succeeds where so many others can't.
As I've stated, I generally prefer more meat for my money, and as such, I don't know that I would recommend anybody pay full price to see Shaft. But if you and some friends are bored with nothing to do one afternoon, then stop by and watch this movie. You'll at least be amused for two hours or so. Can you dig it?
ADDENDUM. I would like to hereby formally declare the following (*ahem*): "Jason Bramlett said this was 'The movie of the summer! Delivers ten times outta ten, just like Shaft!'" and "My original review was wrong. I'd like to apologize. It was cool that Richard Roundtree cameo'd as the other Shaft." There. ...can I have my present now? ^_-