Shaft

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
Shaft Movie Poster Image
A guilty pleasure for adults and older teens.
  • R
  • 2000
  • 99 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Violence

Lots of peril, lots of shooting and fighting, some deaths.

Sex

Some non-graphic scenes and references.

Language

Many, many uses of "f--k."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drinking and smoking, scenes in bars, character is a drug dealer.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this movie has incessant use of the word "f--k" and graphic violence, including self-inflicted ice-pick wounds and lots of punching and shooting. A character is blatantly racist and another is a drug dealer. Especially troubling is a conclusion that is surprisingly supportive of vigilante-style solutions, despite indications that even Shaft believes that this time the system will result in justice.

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What's the story?

Director John Singleton, whose "Furious" character in Boyz N the Hood shared a lot of Shaft's outlook, has updated the movie and the character. This is a story about John Shaft (Samuel L. Jackson), the nephew of the original Shaft (played again in this movie by Richard Roundtree), who is so far from his private detective uncle's commitment to independence that he is a policeman. But when a corrupt system lets a rich racist murderer jump bail, Shaft throws his badge at the judge like a ninja weapon and goes out on the street to see that justice is done.

Is it any good?

This movie gets four stars just for coolness. Samuel L. Jackson, the Armani leather coat, and the Oscar-winning theme song are a match made in heaven, and it is just plain summer-popcorn-movie fun to see them all work it together.

The script is uneven and filled with holes, showing evidence of reported on-set disagreements between the producer, director, and star. Reportedly, too, Jeffrey Wright's performance as drug dealer Peoples Hernandez was so exciting that the movie was reworked to give him more screen time. That is easy to believe, because he is electrifying. That contributes, however, to the difficulty in managing all the plot threads. Efforts to bring the two bad guys together, the Dominican drug dealer and the preppy racist (Christian Bale) may provide some interesting moments, especially when the drug dealer starts networking in a holding cell, asking the preppy for his business card, but it slows the story down. But Singleton knows that when things waver, all he has to do is cut back to Jackson and the theme song to keep the audience happy, and it works remarkably well.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Shaft knows when to follow the rules and when to break them, and what would happen if someone with a less perfectly honed sense of justice were to break as many rules (and noses) as Shaft does.

Movie details

For kids who love action

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