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*Also starring: Vanessa L. Williams, Busta Rhymes, Dan Hedaya, Philip Bosco, Jeffrey Wright, Toni Collette, Jennifer Esposito

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1.  Susan Granger review follows movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review
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Review by Susan Granger
2½ stars out of 4

When Samuel L. Jackson learned that director John Singleton was doing "Shaft," his first reaction was, "Why do we need a remake?" - which was mine, too. Gordon Parks's 1971 original, based on Ernest Tidyman's novel, starring Richard Roundtree, was emblematic of the vitality of the blaxploitation genre, plus Isaac Hayes' thematic music. But Roundtree is back as the original Shaft, 29 years older - and so's the theme. Jackson plays his nephew, NYPD detective John Shaft, a different hero for a different time, fighting against hate crimes and drugs. His character's more volatile, ruthless and violent. And he views violence in a different way. When things get dangerous, Jackson's Shaft kind of smiles, indicating, "I can handle this." The plot revolves around a racially motivated homicide. Walter, a spoiled young college kid ("American Psycho's" Christian Bale), kills a young black student, skips bail, and flees the country for two years - after hiring a tattooed thug (Jeffrey Wright) to kill the only witness (Toni Collette) to the murder. When Walter sneaks back home, Shaft finds him - but his father, once again, posts bail, so Walter's back on the streets only, this time, he's after Shaft - along with two corrupt cops (Dan Hedaya, Ruben Santiago-Hudson) and a Dominican drug lord (Jeffrey Wright). Shaft's only allies are a colleague (Vanessa Williams) and a streetwise buddy (Busta Rhymes). Director John Singleton and writer Richard Price delve into the usual urban crime scene, predictably punctuated by street-smart profanity, and come up with a disappointing conclusion. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Shaft" is a stylish, slick 6. It's hip and cool - if you dig that "It's my duty to satisfy the booty" action. And a sequel's already in the works.

Copyright 2000 Susan Granger

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