Doing forty-five in a 2012 Toyota down the street ain't as impressive as ninety in a '71 Chevelle, but my date and I made it to the library. On an average night, we would be bowling. Once you get me out the library door I tend to stay gone. Tonight the library had a movie and free food, so we decided on a show.
We watched the original Shaft and then went to the theater for the newest film in the series. I'll get to the movies and what I thought of them. First we had to find a seat.
The library offered popcorn and a drink for the movie. As my date and I are wont to do, we brought our own drinks. For the theater, we break out the tall boys. In the library we went respectful, my date bringing her flask. I got the popcorn and she got the drinks and freshened them up for us.
Our library pulls out all the stops for movie nights. The finest non-reclining plastic chairs. Bags of popcorn that not only crunch in your mouth but in your hand. A screen so big it would take a family size cereal box to block the projection.
Speaking of the projection, you never saw such lush grays. Because we are a municipal building, a light must stay on to spotlight the exit. If you sit in the right place, you get to feel like Moses talking to the Lord.
Talking about the Lord, you will feel the booming quality of those stereo computer speakers. Sit close enough and you might hear the earth move.
So we settle and relax near the back. The lights are flicked off. The room has filled up some. A small child held up his hands, but his shadow puppets suck.
Right off people started talking. Not telling Richard Roundtree's Shaft what he should do or who he should throw out a window, but just talking. The guy in front of us was going over his taxes on his cell phone.
"Excuse me, please be quiet," my date said.
The guy doing his taxes turned around and gave me a sweaty eyeball. I gave him one back. He turned back around and kept talking.
"'Scuse me, shut the fuck up," my date said.
The guy turned back to us again. I shrugged and nodded. He said, "Why don't you shut-"
That's about as far as he got. I like my drinks strong, my clothes comfortable, and my women fiery. She hit the dude with her open palm, a nice slap that was felt back up his family tree. He dropped his phone. People clapped.
The rest of the movie went by in silence. Richard Roundtree took no shit and Issaac Hayes bopped along with a nice little funk. After we drove off to the multiplex to see the newest Shaft. We had a less eventful time although on the way we finished a joint to color the experience. Turns out we needed it.
The best way to think about the new Shaft is to compare it to the old Shaft. If anyone out there mentions the middle Shaft from twenty years ago, well, maybe go talk to your mom. She might care.
So how is the 2019 Shaft different or the same from the 1971 version? Well, I guess depending on who you are, the new one is more offensive. There's all kinds of issues in here to mess around with: sexism, homophobia, attitudes of blackness, manliness, cultural issues, and just bad plotting to name a few.
In the 1971 Shaft, Richard Roundtree is the sex machine private detective and all around bad mother shut-your-mouth. He is approached by a local mobster whose daughter has been kidnapped by a rival mob guy. Shaft kills many dudes with bullets and windows and sleeps with two women, proving the sex machine and bad mother shut-your-mouth parts.
In the 2019 version, Jessie T. Usher is a guy who is the son of the guy who is the son of Shaft. The second guy is Samuel L. Jackson and Shaft is still Richard Roundtree. All three men seem to be having a blast but are neither sex machines nor bad mother shut-your-mouths. Wait, no, that's not all correct. They should shut their mouths.
Where the original stuck to a fairly flat noire plot that ranged around New York City and Harlem creating a world, the new version seems to jump from place to place because things have to happen. Usher's JJ (who should be John Shaft III, right?) creates most of the plot. The younger Shaft's friend dies and to solve the case, he goes to his dad (Jackson) who eventually goes to his granddad (Roundtree). The whole thing ties together with an old case of Jackson's.
Most of the dialog is Jackson telling Usher to be more of a straight black man and Usher saying "nuh-uh." To back up that Jackson's approach is correct, the movie over and over shows Usher shooting and fighting to impress his love interest (Alexandra Shipp). The love interest swoons at these "manly" actions while berating Jackson for his outdated attitudes.
Unlike the original, the 2019 movie has no idea what its message wants to be. A comedy? An update to the crime drama? A reason for people to hang out and talk shit to each other? A reason for people to say "the original is better, watch that" because, well, it is and more social conscious.
If you must see a Shaft, check out the original from the library.