Shaft (2019 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Tim Story|
by Ernest Tidyman
|Music by||Christopher Lennertz|
|Edited by||Conrad Buff IV|
|Box office||$21.4 million|
Shaft is a 2019 American action comedy film directed by Tim Story and written by Kenya Barris and Alex Barnow. The film stars Samuel L. Jackson, Jessie T. Usher, and Richard Roundtree. It is the fifth film in the Shaft series and a direct sequel to the 2000 film with the same title.
The film was released theatrically in the United States on June 14, 2019 by Warner Bros. Pictures, and digitally in international markets on June 28, 2019 by Netflix. It received mixed reviews from critics and underperformed at the box office.
In 1989, NYPD Detective John Shaft, his wife Maya, and his infant son John "JJ" Shaft survive an assassination attempt by drug lord Pierro "Gordito" Carrera. Concerned that Shaft's lifestyle will put them in danger, Maya moves upstate and raises JJ on her own. Twenty-five years later, Shaft has quit the NYPD to become a PI and JJ is a rookie FBI agent and cybersecurity expert with a degree from MIT. After Karim, his childhood friend and former US Army soldier, is said to have died because of a heroin overdose, JJ concludes he must have been murdered. JJ travels to Harlem to investigate Manuel, the drug dealer who sold the heroin that Karim allegedly bought, but is violently ejected from his property. While being treated for a minor injury in the hospital by doctor Sasha, JJ's other childhood friend and his unrequited crush, he shows her Karim's toxicology report. She notes that the amount of heroin in Karim's system would have killed him long before he could have taken that much by himself, suggesting that he was indeed murdered. With no other recourse, JJ turns to his father for aid. Shaft agrees to help after realizing that JJ's case may lead him to Gordito.
The two begin investigating together, but JJ's progressive white collar outlook on life clashes with Shaft's old-school street ways. After confronting Manuel, the Shafts investigate "Brothers Watching Brothers", the drug rehab clinic Karim helped create with fellow ex-soldiers Cutworth, Williams and Dominguez. There they learn that Karim stopped going to rehab in favor of attending services at a mosque currently under suspicion by the FBI for terrorism.
Sasha accompanies JJ and Shaft to investigate the mosque, where they are removed from the premises after the imam notices JJ's FBI badge. After Shaft convinces JJ and Sasha to plan a dinner together, the two Shafts investigate a convenience store owned by a woman named Bennie Rodriguez who donated $500,000 to the mosque. Maya calls JJ to inform him that she is coming to New York City to meet a man for dinner; she is overheard and later followed by Shaft. The Shafts, each at separate restaurants, survive assassination attempts orchestrated by Bennie. Maya forces Shaft to kick JJ out of the investigation for his own safety.
JJ turns over the evidence they have gathered to the FBI, who arrest the mosque's imam. However, the media accuses the FBI of islamophobia, and JJ's boss Vietti fires him. JJ returns to Shaft and overhears a conversation about Gordito, leading him to believe that his father was stringing him along the entire time. While Shaft visits and reconciles with Maya, JJ and Sasha track down Bennie to an abandoned warehouse and learn that "Brothers Watching Brothers" is a front for a drug smuggling ring; Karim was killed by Cutworth when he threatened to blow the whistle on their operation. JJ gets discovered by the smugglers; Sasha is kidnapped while JJ is rescued by Shaft.
Shaft introduces JJ to his grandfather, John Shaft Sr., where they acquire more firepower, and Shaft Sr. decides to accompany them in an assault on Gordito's penthouse. The Shafts kill the drug smugglers while JJ has an intense fight with Cutty and kills him, avenging Karim's death. He rescues Sasha before being confronted at gunpoint by Gordito. Gordito attempts to shoot JJ to spite Shaft, but Shaft takes the bullet and shoots Gordito, causing him to crash through a window and fall to his death, before collapsing himself.
In the aftermath, Shaft recovers at the hospital, with Maya's support. At the insistence of Shaft and Shaft Sr., JJ and Sasha kiss and finally begin a relationship. Vietti soon offers JJ a promotion to field agent, but JJ turns it down in favor of joining his father and grandfather in their PI business and at the end, the three generations of Shafts walk away together.
- Samuel L. Jackson as John Shaft, a private investigator and former NYPD detective, father of JJ Shaft and son[a] of John Shaft, Sr.
- Jessie T. Usher as JJ Shaft, an FBI computer analyst, estranged son of John Shaft and grandson of John Shaft, Sr., who he meets for the first time since he was a baby
- Richard Roundtree as John Shaft, Sr., legendary private investigator, father[a] of Jackson's Shaft and grandfather of JJ Shaft
- Regina Hall as Maya Babanikos, JJ's mother and John Shaft's ex-wife
- Alexandra Shipp as Sasha Arias, medical doctor, JJ's childhood friend and love interest
- Matt Lauria as Major Gary Cutworth, Karim's partner in the rehab centre, a drug smuggler who kills Karim
- Titus Welliver as Special Agent Vietti, JJ's FBI boss
- Cliff "Method Man" Smith as Freddie P., acquaintance of John Shaft
- Isaach de Bankolé as Pierro "Gordito" Carrera, a drug lord
- Avan Jogia as Karim Hassan, JJ's childhood friend, a recovering addict helping fellow returning soldiers
- Luna Lauren Vélez as Bennie Rodriguez, Gordito's money launderer
In addition, Cutworth's criminal partners at the rehab center are played by Robbie Jones as Williams and Aaron Dominguez as Dominguez (Bennie's cousin), with Leland Jones appearing as Maya's date Ron, while Baby and Sugar, JJ's new friends at the club, are played by Chivonne Michelle and Tashiana Washington, respectively.
On February 18, 2015, it was announced that New Line Cinema had acquired the rights to the Shaft franchise, featuring detective character John Shaft, and would develop a new film within the series, along with producer John Davis of Davis Entertainment. On July 28, 2015, it was reported that Kenya Barris and Alex Barnow would write the script for the new film, which would also be produced by Ira Napoliello, and on January 20, 2017, the studio hired Tim Story to direct. On August 18, 2017, Jessie T. Usher was cast to play the film's new lead, the son of Samuel L. Jackson's John Shaft II from the 2000 film, while Richard Roundtree and Jackson were set to reprise their previous franchise roles.
In October 2017, Netflix signed a deal with New Line Cinema to cover more than half of the film's $30 million budget in exchange for the rights, which allowed Netflix to release the film on its platform outside of the United States two weeks after the theatrical release in the U.S.
In the United States and Canada, Shaft was released alongside Men in Black: International, as well as the wide expansion of Late Night, and was initially projected to gross $17–20 million from 2,950 theaters in its opening weekend. However, after the film made $2.7 million on its first day, including $600,000 from Thursday night previews, projections were lowered to $7 million. The film went on to debut to $8.3 million, finishing sixth at the box office. It grossed $3.6 million in its second weekend, dropping 60% to 11th.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 31% based on 122 reviews, with an average rating of 4.6/10. The user score contrasts strongly with the critical response. The website's critical consensus reads: "Decades removed from the original, this multi-generational Shaft struggles to keep its characters interesting -- or anything other than uncomfortably outdated." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 40 out of 100, based on 31 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews." Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film a grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale, while those at PostTrak gave it an average 4 out of 5 stars and a 51% "definite recommend."
Writing for The A.V. Club, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky gave the film a C, writing, "With its groaner jokes and TV-pilot production values, the new film makes the last attempt at updating the character to contemporary action-hero tastes (in 2000's Shaft, directed by the late John Singleton) look downright old-school. And its identity crises go a lot deeper than the title it confusingly shares with two earlier films."
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