Review: Shaft (Blu-ray)

JJ, aka John Shaft Jr. (Jessie T. Usher), may be a cyber security expert with a degree from MIT, but to uncover the truth behind his best friend’s untimely death, he needs an education only his dad can provide. Absent throughout JJ’s youth, the legendary locked-and-loaded John Shaft (Samuel L. Jackson) agrees to help his progeny navigate Harlem’s heroin-infested underbelly. And while JJ’s own FBI analyst’s badge may clash with his dad’s trademark leather coat, there’s no denying family. Besides, Shaft’s got an agenda of his own, and a score to settle that’s professional and personal.

Plot: JJ Shaft, a cyber security expert with a degree from MIT, enlists his family’s help to uncover the truth behind his best friend’s untimely death.

Director:  Tim Story

Aspect Ratio: 2.39.1

Runtime: 111 min

Rotten Tomatoes Consensus: Decades removed from the original, this multi-generational Shaft struggles to keep its characters interesting — or anything other than uncomfortably outdated.

Online Ratings:

  1. Rotten Tomatoes 32% (Audience 94%)
  2. IMDB 6.4
  3. Metacritic 40

“A refreshing attempt to blend the gap between generations.”


I was under the impression that there was no 4K UHD disc for this, so when the review copy came in as a standard Blu-ray I thought nothing about it — but there seems to be 4K availability on streaming services and the ‘potential’ of a Best Buy exclusive 4K disc. Keeping that in mind… this movie was shot with Arri Alexa XT Plus cameras and (according the the specs) given a final digital intermediate in 2k. It was also given a HDR color grade for your viewing pleasure in HDR10?

The question mark is due to the fact that I need to confirm the rumblings and report back. I will update this as soon as I hear from Warner Brothers.

Update: There is a streaming version available in 4K UHD and Best Buy has an exclusive 4K disc you can pick up in store!

If this movie is indeed available on 4K UHD, this could be solid disc because the Blu-ray has a nice sharpness to it. For example, you could discern close facial detail throughout the movie like pores on the characters skin or details in the various outfits. The black levels were also pretty stable throughout all the night scenes — with HDR and added resolution, this could hit the right marks you look for on the UHD format… but until that get’s confirmed or denied, let’s talk about the movie.

You know there’s something strange going on when critics ‘shafted’ this movie with a whopping 32%, but the audience score sits at 94% — that gives me cause to pause. Why is it so drastically different?

The real question is do we need another Shaft to be made? The answer is yes if a couple things can line up — one, can you keep the core audience entertained while also relating them with the new audience? — and two, can you take something that people love and make it original again in some sort of way? I think they managed to pull it off because they didn’t take themselves too seriously, and in the end, they crafted something that every generation can enjoy.

Ultimately what Shaft boils down to is a funny buddy-cop movie between a newly reunited father and son. Yes, it’s still a Shaft movie, but it’s old school vs. new school — the millennial son with new tricks up his sleeve and the old legend father not letting go of his traditions. As you can imagine, both characters begin to blend with each other, taking the best of both worlds until they find a way to work seamlessly. Another way you could put it is: they both need each other, but they don’t know it or how to express it.

The box art includes the quote “funniest action move of the year,” but I wouldn’t go that far, I think a more apt quote is “the perfect blend of comedy and action.” This movie was hilarious and most of the comedic points hit — at least through the eyes of this millennial. Mixing the generations and making fun of that aspect worked for me because I still do it in my daily life. The first Shaft (1971) released 20 years before I was born, so I’m not coming from that perspective and I’m not sure how any lovers of that film perceive this one. (If you are one of those people, let me know what you think in the comments.)

When you mix that comedy-aspect with some thrills, car chases, shootouts and drugs — you have an enjoyable movie that you can kick back and enjoy without having to nit-pick on why this movie and the acting won’t be nominated for an Oscar. You can’t drown yourself in all the little things, this movie is what it is, it knows what it is and it asks for nothing other than that. Just enjoy it.

You have my recommendation that at the very least, you will enjoy this movie. If you’re a big Shaft fan, pick it up, and if you’re just interested, give it a rent. Just know that this is an opinion of a person that didn’t grow up with the original, so take that how you may. You can officially own Shaft on Blu-ray and DVD September 24, or own it early on Digital today!



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