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In this troubling reboot, the plot gets ‘Shaft’

Katie Walsh
Tribune News Service

In Hollywood, everything old is new again. As much as we whine and cry and gnash our teeth, intellectual property is king, simply because it’s there, available to be rebooted, rehashed, reheated. Remember “Shaft”?

How about more “Shaft,” but with more hacky jokes about millennials and an incredibly ugly homophobic streak?

Samuel L. Jackson reprises his role from John Singleton’s 2000 film, “Shaft,” as detective John Shaft II (technically the original Shaft’s nephew, though this film doesn’t clarify the lineage much). After a brutal 1989 shootout, his girlfriend Maya (Regina Hall) takes off with their child, JJ, and raises him away from the violence of Harlem. JJ (Jessie T. Usher) grows into a smart, nerdy MIT grad who takes a job working as an FBI analyst. When a childhood friend (Avan Jogia) struggling with addiction succumbs to a drug overdose, JJ has to turn to his estranged father and learn the ways of the street to uncover the truth.

Written by Kenya Barris and Andrew Barnow, the plot seems like merely a second thought and almost completely unnecessary. So much of the exposition is dispatched with long reams of dialogue during scenes wherein a random comedic sidebar distracts from any pertinent information. How are we supposed to understand the explanation of the intricate workings of a drug trafficking ring that may or may not have anything to do with a local mosque or an advocacy group for veterans when there’s all these corny Uber jokes in the mix?

Yet this distracting material is far preferred to the film’s other brand of humor, which is wildly homophobic and misogynistic. With its nasty attitude and haphazard, tonally inconsistent direction by Tim Story, there isn’t much “Shaft” can do to win audiences over.



Rated R: for pervasive language, violence, sexual content, some drug material and brief nudity

Running time: 111 minutes