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Shaft

Director:John Singleton
Writer:Richard Price
Paramount Pictures; R; 110 minutes
Release:6/00
Cast:Samuel L. Jackson, Vanessa Williams, Jeffrey Wright, Christian Bale

This year's Shaft is a kind of loose sequel to the seminal Richard Roundtree blaxploitation flick under the same name. Samuel L. Jackson brings his sly ministerial presence to the role of Shaft's nephew, also on the NYPD force. A horrendous hate crime by a seemingly untouchable yuppie (Christian Bale, American Psycho--style) enrages Shaft, and he eventually quits the force to pursue vigilante justice. "It's Giuliani time" Shaft announces at one point, perhaps intended for laughs but oddly underscoring the danger of out-of-control cops.

The movie's stylish and street-smart, but a little sexless compared to the virility of its predecessor. Now this can be a good thing or a bad thing, but general consensus suggests that if you're gonna blaxploitate, you'd better be prepared to go all the way. Vanessa Williams, as former partner to the former cop, has a particularly chaste role. Jackson can do a lot with a look or line reading, however, and Bale's villainy is delightfully supported by a turgid, flamboyant Jeffrey Wright (Basquiat), who slithers his way into the center of every scene.


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