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Paramount Studios presents
Shaft (2000)

"You know me. It's my duty to please that booty."
- John Shaft (Samuel L. Jackson)

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: December 03, 2000

Stars: Samuel L. Jackson, Jeffrey Wright, Christian Bale
Other Stars: Toni Collette, Busta Rhymes, Richard Roundtree, Vanessa Williams
Director: John Singleton

MPAA Rating: R for strong violence and language
Run Time: 01h:38m:53s
Release Date: December 12, 2000
UPC: 012569505124
Genre: action


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- C+AA C+

DVD Review

For some reason, Hollywood is convinced that people don't want to see new stories and characters, they just want to see remakes of formulas that worked in the past. Or that didn't work, in the case of Rollerball. Why we need a remake of THAT is a mystery to me. Needless to say, these remake things don't often turn out too well. The only real successes I can think of are The Thomas Crown Affair and The Addams Family. Oh, and don't forget Lost in Space :::snort:::. So anyway, with that kind of track record, I wasn't expecting the 2000 remake of the blacksploitation classic Shaft to be all that. Lucky for me, I was wrong. Almost. Ok, half wrong. It's all that, but without the chips.

Samuel L. Jackson IS Shaft. Who's Shaft you say? Why, he's the man who'd risk his life for his brother man! Why, that Shaft is one bad mother - Ok, ok, I'll shut my mouth (but I'm just talking about Shaft!) There. Now that I've gotten that out of my system -

Shaft is a cop who is fed up with the corruption of the legal system. After a rich white boy gets away with the murder of a black man simply because he has the cash to weasel his way out of it, Shaft decides to quit the police force and solve the case on his own. That will involve tracking down and protecting the only witness (played by Toni Collette). Of course, he also has to deal with a pesky drug lord (Jeffrey Wright) who would like to see him dead and some less-than-honest cops willing to sell him out to make a buck (No way! A dishonest cop?).

There are some very good things about this remake. The acting is excellent. Samuel L. Jackson IS Shaft. I can't think of a better casting decision in the last 10 years. I think it is safe to say that this remake would not have happened without him. He is like Sean Connery as Bond - he just oozes cool. I was also very impressed by Jeffrey Wright as Peoples Hernandez, especially when I found out that he is not really a Latino. He perfected the accent and mannerisms of the character. Christian Bale plays a slightly less smarmy version of his character in American Psycho, and he does a good job playing the character you love to hate, even if the part is underwritten. The supporting cast was also good, but I could've done without Busta Rhymes. He's bad enough in the Sprite commercials.

Also good: the action! Who would've thought that the guy who made the socially controversial, powerfully moving Boyz n' the Hood could direct some of the most frenetic and thrilling action sequences of the year? This is very violent stuff, with heads getting themselves exploded and blood a-flying, and the camera captures it all without reverting to annoying close-up jerkiness (a la Gladiator) or wannabe Matrix crap (a la Romeo Must Die). It was nice to see something different for a change.

Now the bad: the script. Not so much the dialogue, which was decent and quite funny in parts (they nailed the character of Shaft), but the story feels very tired right from the get-go. A racial crime - how very PC and '90s... or '00s, I guess. And speaking of the—um—last year, this was clearly NOT a film from the '70s. The original Shaft was mostly sex with some violence added in. The remake is all violence (some of it very graphic), but it's OK, because we don't see any (tee hee) naked ladies. But I digress. Again.

The story tries to do too much. I mean, we have the racist killer, the drug dealer, the corrupt cops, Shaft searching for the witness, Shaft struggling to do what is right - yadda yadda. Too much is crammed in and as a result, the story doesn't work as a whole. Subplots are introduced and then ignored for the rest of the film (I am thinking of Christian Bale being recruited by Wright to sell drugs to the upper-class— don't worry, I'm not spoiling anything, since it plays no part anywhere else in the film). Wright made such a great villain that I wish they'd ignored the trite stuff about racism and drugs and just had him be a psycho for two hours. And that ending! Upon reflection, I can't believe I was surprised by what occurred. I guess I just expected that the writers would be able to think of something a bit less cliché. After about 45 minutes, the plot just exists to string along action sequences anyway, so why muck it up with social pretenses on the corruption of the upper class mentality? I mean really, I go to Shaft to see a sex machine who's a hit with all the chicks.

Of course, many will argue that a good plot and realistically drawn characters aren't important in an action film, and I guess they'd be right, to an extent. And if you look at it that way, Shaft does provide just enough plot to push the action and create a somewhat compelling storyline. The character of Shaft is the real star, and Sam Jackson delivers.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: C+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Paramount has done a great job with this transfer. Black levels are excellent throughout. Fine detail looks very good, and the color contrast is sharp. Flesh tones were accurate. I noticed just a bit of edge enhancement in a few places, but nothing major. In fact, the only problem I had was that the transfer seemed a bit dark, but perhaps it was intentional. Right on!

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Frenchyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Audio sounds good overall, but I have to say that the mix wasn't quite as aggressive as I had expected. Most of the action takes place in the front soundstage (that isn't to say it sounds front-heavy - the front stage is very wide here). Dialogue is clear and understandable. When surrounds are used (mostly in the latter half of the film, during key action scenes or with the score), they are aggressive, but as I said, they aren't used as much as you'd expect for an action movie. The LFE is well used in the action scenes, particularly with the gunshots. Can 'ya dig it?

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Cast and Crew interviews
  2. Issac Hayes The Theme from Shaft music video
  3. R. Kelly Bad Man music video
Extras Review: Slowly but surely, Paramount has been ramping up the amount of extra features on their DVDs, particularly their new releases. Shaft features a number of extras, but nothing very interesting. You think they'd want to provide some more substantial stuff, considering that no one understands Shaft but his woman. After all, he's a complicated man!

Two featurettes are provided. The first, Still The Man: The Making of Shaft, is your basic studio promo piece. There are interviews with the actors and the crew, but not much beyond just plot description. The disc producers then risked their lives for their brother, um - man, I guess, to provide about 12 minutes of interviews with the cast. All the principals discuss what drew them to the project and how they went about defining their characters. Kind of ho-hum, but worth a look.

The rather nifty theatrical trailer is included (thanks, Paramount, for not forgetting it like you did with M:I 2), as well as two music videos. The first, for Issac Hayes' new version of the Shaft theme, is the better of the two (but maybe that has something to do with the fact that I can't look at R. Kelly without thinking about Space Jam :::shudder:::).

Oh, and I noticed that the packaging lists "dynamic interactive motion menus" as an extra. Well, I don't know about you, but a sparsely animated main menu with static everything else doesn't scream "dynamic" to me.

Extras Grade: C+

 

Final Comments

John Singleton really pumps up the action in Shaft 2000, but the end result was a bit too far from the spirit of the original for my taste. While some sequences reached an almost John Woo-like intensity, the main storyline didn't do it for me either. I didn't care about any of these characters. Still, with the disc, Paramount delivers ten times out of ten, so I have to recommend this to action fans.

 


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