Directed by Tim Story, Shaft stars J.J (Jessie T. Usher), a millennial who has been abandoned by his danger-attracting father, John Shaft (Samuel L. Jackson) and raised by his caring mother, Maya (Regina Hall), away from Shaft in an attempt to keep him out of trouble. When J.J’s childhood friend Karim (Avan Jogia) dies from a suspicious “overdose”, however, J.J feels compelled to reach out to his father who he believes can help him solve this mystery and serve justice.
Shaft does not entirely fail to provide the comedic nature it promises; it’s full of laughs in a light-hearted script which sees Shaft poke fun at his stereotypically millennial son. For instance, having no patience for J.J’s awkward nature, he pushes him to “man-up” and take best friend Sasha (Alexandra Shipp) – whom he is secretly in love with – out to dinner, doing things old-school instead of continuing to text her to no avail.
However, there are two major miscalculations in the fast-paced action-comedy. Firstly, at times Shaft fails to merge the elements of comedy and action successfully. It’s almost as if it’s two separate movies attempting to intertwine, with the comedic elements struggling to relate to the action-based plot. The second issue lies in the question of political correctness. Although Shaft is poking fun at J.J’s nature – for example, his “softness”, over-awareness of safety and the typically millennial habit of texting can be hilarious at times – occasionally the script can uncomfortably cross boundaries of what can be considered acceptable content. The emphasis on being told to “man-up” and the use of overtly derogatory language is undoubtedly a step too far, promoting the ideals of toxic masculinity and misogyny. It’s a shame; the comedic nature of the plot has potential but the often tasteless humour in Kenya Barris and Alex Barnow’s screenplay ruins what could have been a success.
Overall, Shaft is a good attempt at a fun-filled action-comedy but needed perhaps more work on its careless humour and general tone.
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