A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Shaft is the sequel to Shaft (2000) and the fifth movie in a series that began with Shaft (1971). This installment resorts to dumb comedy and has lots of sloppy, glamorized violence with no consequences. Plus, its message is all about defining "being a man" as acting tough and objectifying women. Gender-fluid men and any man who's not a fully red-blooded heterosexual are ridiculed. Expect to see tons of guns and shooting, blood spurts, fighting, and more. There's also frequent, graphic sexual innuendo, sex talk, and other adult material. One woman is shown partially topless, and others are viewed as sex objects. Language is constant, with countless uses of "f--k," "s--t," "p---y," the "N" word, "t-ts," and more. The villains are drug dealers, and drugs are part of the plot; drug use and paraphernalia are shown. A main character gets drunk, throws up, and passes out; other drinking is shown. Samuel L. Jackson, Richard Roundtree, and Jessie T. Usher co-star.
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What's the story?
In SHAFT, a flashback to 1989 reveals that John Shaft (Samuel L. Jackson) once had a wife, Maya (Regina Hall), and an infant son. In order to keep them safe from a dangerous drug lord, he needed to remove himself from their lives. Years later, that son, J.J. (Jessie T. Usher), has grown up to become an FBI data analyst. When J.J.'s best friend turns up dead, J.J. suspects foul play and contacts his father for help. The trail leads right back to that same drug lord, Gordito (Isaach De Bankolé) -- but just when J.J. finds proof, the bad guys kidnap Sasha (Alexandra Shipp), the woman he loves. Before Shaft and son head into the final showdown, they decide to enlist a little help from the original (Richard Roundtree). Can three generations of Shafts finally put an end to the trouble?
Is it any good?
The banter between cool-cat father and nerdy, uptight son is somewhat funny, but lazy writing and wrongheaded stereotyping quickly send this sequel down the shaft. The fifth film in the Shaft series -- and the third to use the title Shaft (why couldn't the filmmakers have chosen a new one?) -- starts off with an interesting-enough idea: that John Shaft's son would turn out to be a sensitive, computer-literate softie, rather than a superbad, street-smart tough guy. But the filmmakers eventually turn that idea into a dumb comedy, with all the usual uptight vs. laid-back clashes. Only Jackson's effortlessly charismatic line readings make some of these encounters vaguely amusing.
Ultimately, the filmmakers seem to care more about their creaky, tired, unfailingly predictable plot mechanics -- from the early murder to the inevitable betrayal and kidnapping scenes (not to mention sluggish, sloppy action scenes) -- than their characters. The Shafts become thin, cartoonish versions of what began as a gritty outsider antihero (in the original 1971 Shaft). Perhaps most galling is the movie's assertion that men ought to be "real men" -- i.e., tough and willing to fight/shoot guns, treat women as objects, and never apologize. What finally happens in Shaft (2019) is that the characters never really seem affected at all by violence, death, or even love; thus, they never connect, and they never come alive.
Talk to your kids about ...
How is sex depicted? How are women treated, viewed, and talked about? What about those who are gender-fluid? What message does that treatment send?
How are drugs depicted? Are they glamorized, or are they shown to be dangerous? What about alcohol?
What does it mean for a man to be "manly" or "strong"? Does the movie's view of this aspect seem positive or affirming?
What's the appeal of the Shaft character? How does this movie compare with the others in the series?
- In theaters: June 14, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: September 24, 2019
- Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Jessie T. Usher, Regina Hall
- Director: Tim Story
- Studios: Warner Bros., Netflix
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 111 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: pervasive language, violence, sexual content, some drug material and brief nudity
- Last updated: May 13, 2020
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