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Movie Review

Shaft is the toughest man in New York City. If you’ve spent time on the streets, you’ve heard of him. But this movie isn’t all about him. It’s more about his son and reluctant protégé, John Shaft Jr, otherwise known as JJ.

A cyber security expert with a degree from MIT and a tech ob at the FBI, JJ Shaft is the polar opposite of his absentee father. His mom, Maya, made sure of that.

Maya left Shaft years before when JJ was a baby and vowed to give her son a peaceful, non-violent upbringing. She couldn’t protect her boy from his dad entirely: I mean, JJ still received the occasional inappropriate birthday gift from him, and he knew that his dad was somewhere out there lawlessly battling crime. But JJ could at least live a different life.

And so he has. But JJ still has a knack for problem solving, just like his old man. Which comes in handy when JJ’s best friend, Karim, turns up dead. The police say it’s just a simple overdose, but JJ’s not buying it.

An amateur investigator who knows nothing about drug dealing and the mean streets, JJ turns to his father for help. And Shaft is quick to hop aboard—as long as he can take down the same man he’s been stalking for years.

Positive Elements

Shaft may have a lot of issues, but he’s not a purely immoral human being. Sure, he chose a life of violence instead of being present for his son, but it’s because he wanted to keep the streets as safe as possible for his boy. Maya, meanwhile, used a different strategy to keep her baby safe: She left Shaft when JJ was a baby in order to protect him from a life filled with crime and violence.

JJ grows into a respectable, kind, intelligent and accomplished young man—one who teaches his father a few lessons on how to respect women and to apologize (something Shaft has never done).

JJ’s love interest, Sasha, is protective of JJ. When she meets Shaft she makes it clear that she disapproves of his father’s lifestyle, and she’ll do what she can to protect JJ from his father’s bad influence. JJ’s best friend, Karim, is involved in a recovery center for wounded veterans (though we later learn that this center is being used as a front).

Familial bonds are repaired and baddies are brought to justice.

Spiritual Content

We hear that Karim attended services at a mosque. Later, this same mosque is busted for money laundering but the news makes it seem as if it’s a racially charged hate crime.

Sexual Content

Shaft still has feelings for his ex-wife. And Maya, though she hates to admit it, is still attracted to him. A few scenes show the two getting physically and emotionally close (but nothing happens), and Maya discusses the size of his penis even as she tries to convince herself she’s not interested in him anymore. Both Shaft and Maya have had previous lovers—especially Shaft, who is a notorious, shameless playboy.

When Shaft finally meets his reserved, adult son JJ, he encourages him to dance with women and engage in sexual activity saying, “It’s your duty to please that booty.” JJ generally refuses to get close to women, and Shaft makes fun of him for his seeming lack of interest. In reality, JJ believes in monogamy and only likes one woman.

A woman answers a door, covered in glitter, wearing an unbuttoned suit coat with nothing underneath. Shaft’s mouth is seen covered in glitter, insinuating sexual activity with her. Later, he smacks her rear.

Shaft sends his young son condoms and pornographic magazines for his birthdays (his mother is horrified and doesn’t allow him to keep the gifts). Shaft presses his wife’s head down to protect her from getting shot but she thinks he’s asking for oral sex. Shaft tells his son that his grandmother was a stripper and he watches pornography at his apartment (we hear suggestive sounds but don’t see anything).

A plethora of jokes are made about homosexuality, bi-curiosity and bi-sexuality, sexual orientation, erectile cream, sex, conception, pornography and sexually transmitted diseases.

A prostitute asks a young man if he wants to lick her breasts (using a far more crass word). A song talks about women getting naked. A gay male receptionist flirts with an older man. Married women flirt with random men at clubs. Women wear cleavage-baring tops and men go shirtless. A prostitute is seen in her bra. Couples kiss and make out.

Violent Content

Shaft may protect the rights of he and his family, but he certainly doesn’t abide by the law. If you cross him, Shaft will kill you, shoot you, break your hand (violently), hit you upside the head, threaten you and take whatever means necessary to make you sorry you ever saw him. No surprise that we see (and hear) all of these things happen many times.

Shootouts occur quite frequently (sometimes in slow motion)—and man, we see a lot of guns used. Men are shot in the legs, chest, head and other body parts as blood flies and splatters in multiple directions. Dead bodies lay scattered on the ground. Shaft shoots a woman’s personal belongings until she confesses.

A few men get into a fist fight and, when that doesn’t seem like enough, they start threatening each other with knives. Elsewhere, JJ uses his knowledge of the martial art of Capoeira to beat up a jealous husband. Other fights occur in bars and in the streets. A man is knocked unconscious. A woman is kidnapped and held at gun point. Shaft aggressively steps on a man’s (covered) genitals as a means of gathering information.

Crude or Profane Language

God’s name is misused nearly 10 times, occasionally paired with “d--n”, and Jesus’ name is abused three times. There are over 120 utterances of the f-word and nearly 60 of the s-word. “A--” is heard around 30 times and other profanity includes “d--n,” “b--ch,” “son of a b--ch,” “a--hole,” “d--k,” “n-gga” and “p-ssy.” A man uses a crude hand gesture.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Shaft and JJ work together to uncover a worldwide drug smuggling operation. Opioids, heroine and dope are all referenced and some drugs are seen hidden in crates.

A man becomes addicted to drugs when he returns from war. Later, he’s found lying on the ground, surrounded by needles—dead from a heroin overdose.

Shaft lives a reckless life and doesn’t shy away from a party. He encourages his son to come out with him and later carries his intoxicated boy home. They, along with many others, consume hard liquor, take shots, drink wine and smoke cigars and cigarettes.

Other Negative Elements

JJ grows up without his father, something that has obviously left a mark on him. When JJ introduces Shaft as his father, many people use snide remarks and derogatory statements to let Shaft know that he’s been a terrible, selfish father. At one point JJ asks Shaft for help and Shaft assumes he needs money for an abortion (which he’s willing to give).

Baddies run from the cops, drive recklessly and engage in illegal activity such as embezzlement and money laundering. A data analyst illegally hacks into computers to find classified information.

After a night of excessive drinking, a man vomits on two women. A few racially charged jokes are heard.

Conclusion

A sequel to the 2000 version of Shaft starring Samuel L. Jackson (which itself was a semi-sequel to the original 1971 movie), Shaft has all the problems of its predecessors and more.

Highlighted with funny moments and moral glimpses, Shaft doesn’t skimp on great acting or witty lines. But it doesn’t try to be tame either. Profanity, sexual content, unremitting violence and a slew of other issues make their way to the big screen. If it weren’t for all these things, it might be palatable. But it’s not.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Samuel L. Jackson as John Shaft; Jessie T. Usher as JJ Shaft; Richard Roundtree as John Shaft, Sr; Regina Hall as Maya Babanikos; Alexandra Shipp as Sasha Arias; Matt Lauria as Major Gary Cutworth; Titus Welliver as Special Agent Vietti; Method Man as Freddy P (as Cliff 'Method Man' Smith); Isaach De Bankolé as Pierro 'Gordito' Carrera; Avan Jogia as Karim Hassan; Luna Lauren Velez as Bennie Rodriguez; Robbie Jones as Sergeant Keith Williams; Aaron Dominguez as Staff Sergeant Eddie Dominguez; Ian Casselberry as Manuel Orozco; Almeera Jiwa as Anam; Amato D'Apolito as Farik Bahar

Director

Tim Story ( )

Distributor

Warner Bros.

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

June 14, 2019

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Kristin Smith

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults
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This Plugged In review contains information about graphic sexual or violent content. It is not suitable for all ages. Reader discretion is advised.
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