Jun 13, 2019

Listen tomorrow to It's Movie Time as John and Kevin try to give some heft to this light-weight fantasy.


Grade: C+

Director: Tim Story (Barbershop)

Screenplay: Kenya Barris (Girls Trip), Alex Barnow, from Ernest Tidyman novel

Cast: Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction), Jessie T. Usher (Independence Day: Resurgence)

Rating: R

By: John DeSando

Do we need a third Shaft that began in movies in 1971? Well, yes, if it means Samuel L. Jackson can play Shaft II, still kick butt, and most importantly spit humorous invective with the best screwballers in movies. Shaft’s combination of a PI’s Harlem street smarts and his natural wit make him a small delight in a summer needing real smarts.

Joining his father, Shaft Jr. (Jessie T. Usher) rescues his doctor girlfriend (Alexandra Shipp) from some very bad black and white guys in a part of Harlem that doesn’t look for guns because it has them all.  More important than the formulaic plot involving murder, drugs, revenge, and loyalty is the easy banter amongst the major players.

The wit of writers Kenya Barris and Alex Barnow saves an otherwise cliched version of 70’s blaxploitation from being a relic of early black empowerment. In other words, Black Panther it isn’t, yet dull it isn’t:

John Shaft Jr.: [on his dad] He thinks he's a black James Bond.

John Shaft II: If that dude was real, he'd think he was ME.

When Jackson is on the screen, very funny bad-ass rules. So, if you have been looking for relief from dull super-hero films this summer, turn to Shaft. You won’t be bored; you won’t be edified; you’ll just be entertained. And that’s what summer is all about.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at