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, John Shaft II, his wife Maya Babanikos, and his infant son John "JJ" Shaft Jr. survive an assassination attempt by drug lord Pierro "Gordito" Carrera. Concerned that Shaft II's lifestyle will put them in danger, Maya leaves him and raises JJ on her own. 25 years later, JJ is an FBI agent and a cybersecurity expert with a degree from MIT. After his childhood friend Karim dies of a heroin overdose, JJ concludes he must have been murdered. JJ travels to Harlem to investigate Manuel, the drug dealer who runs the neighborhood and sold the heroin that allegedly killed Karim, but is violently ejected from his property. While being treated for a minor injury in the hospital by JJ's other childhood friend and his own crush Sasha, 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 Shaft II for aid. Shaft II 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 II's old-school street ways. After confronting Manuel again, the Shafts investigate "Brothers Watching Brothers", the drug rehab clinic Karim was a part of. 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.
The next day, Sasha accompanies JJ and Shaft II to investigate the mosque, where they are ejected from the premises after the imam notices JJ's FBI badge. Shaft II convinces JJ and Sasha to have a romantic dinner together, and the Shafts next 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 to meet a man for a date; she is overheard and followed by Shaft II. The Shafts survive two separate assassination attempts orchestrated by Bennie, and Maya forces Shaft II 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 II and overhears a conversation about Gordito, leading him to believe that his father was stringing him along the entire time. While Shaft II 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 when he threatened to blow the whistle on their operation. JJ is caught by the smugglers; Sasha is captured while JJ is rescued by Shaft II. The two visit JJ’s grandfather, John Shaft Sr., to acquire more firepower, and Shaft Sr. decides to accompany them in an assault on Gordito's penthouse. The Shafts kill the drug smugglers after 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 II, but Shaft II takes the bullet and knocks Gordito out of a window to his death before collapsing. In the aftermath, Shaft II recovers at the hospital. JJ and Sasha kiss and begin a relationship. Vietti offers JJ his job back, but JJ turns it down in favor of joining his father and grandfather in their PI business.
- Samuel L. Jackson as John Shaft, a detective turned private investigator, father of JJ and son[a] of the original John Shaft.
- Jessie T. Usher as John "JJ" Shaft Jr., an FBI agent, son of the younger Shaft and grandson of the original Shaft.
- Richard Roundtree as John Shaft, Sr., legendary private investigator, father[a] of Jackson's Shaft.
- Alexandra Shipp as Sasha Arias, JJ's childhood friend and love interest.
- Regina Hall as Maya Babanikos, Shaft II's ex-wife and JJ's mother
- Matt Lauria as Major Gary Cutworth
- Titus Welliver as Special Agent Vietti
- Method Man as Freddie P
- Isaach de Bankolé as Pierro 'Gordito' Carrera
- Avan Jogia as Karim Hassan, JJ's childhood friend who is a recovering addict.
- Robbie Jones as Sergeant Keith Williams
- Lauren Vélez as Bennie Rodriguez
- Leland L. Jones as Ron
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 108 reviews, with an average rating of 4.58/10. 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."
- The 2000 film presented Jackson's Shaft as the original John Shaft's nephew; this film retcons him into being his son, mentioning that they had been pretending an uncle/nephew relationship. Official promotional material refers to Jackson's character as John Shaft and to his son as JJ aka John Shaft Jr.
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