Follow TV Tropes


Film / Shaft (2019)

Go To
"Please tell me that you did not get our son involved in your bullshit!"

"If you’re going to pursuit this investigation, I'm going to have to babysit your ass."
John Shaft II to John Shaft III

Shaft is a 2019 action-comedy-crime film directed by Tim Story and written by Kenya Barris and Alex Barnow and the fifth film in the Shaft series, bringing three generations of John Shafts together — the original, the second, and a much younger third.

John "JJ" Shaft III (Jessie T. Usher) is an FBI agent and cybersecurity expert with a degree from MIT. After his best friend dies due to suspicious circumstances, he turns to his estranged father - John Shaft II (Samuel L. Jackson) - to uncover the truth. Father and son must navigate the Harlem underworld to solve the crime. Along the way, they team up with the legendary first generation John Shaft (Richard Roundtree).

The film was theatrically released in North America on June 14, 2019, and is streamed on Netflix in the rest of the world since June 28, 2019.

Previews: Trailer 1, Trailer 2.

Shaft contains examples of:

  • 11th-Hour Ranger: The movie focuses on Shaft II and JJ. Shaft Sr. doesn't appear until late in the film when he joins them in the final battle. There’s no mention of him either, aside from one indirect comment when JJ calls Shaft II “the worst father ever”. Shaft II then replies “No, that would be mine”.
  • Actor Allusion: Bennie compares Shaft II to Morpheus at one point, causing him to snap and shoot her bag. This is a Shout-Out to one incident when Sam Rubin accidentally referred to Samuel L. Jackson as Laurence Fishburne, something that apparently happens to Shaft II a lot.
    "I'm sick of all these Laurence Fishburne comparisons. Shit's gettin' old."
  • Advertised Extra: Richard Roundtree (Shaft Sr.)
  • Arch-Enemy: Gordito has become a personal enemy of the Shafts, mainly to Shaft II, as explained in It's Personal below.
  • Bar Brawl: JJ gets involved in one.
  • Big Bad: Gordito.
  • Badass Family: The Shaft family has produced three generations of badass cops (although the third is still a little... bumbling).
  • Badass Longcoat: All three John Shafts wear longcoats on the poster and and at the end of the film, and the first two Shafts are established badasses. (JJ's working on it.)
  • Celebrity Paradox: JJ mentions James Bond. Isaac De Bankolé (Gordito) appeared in Casino Royale as Obanno.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Shaft II catches on quickly that JJ has a crush on Sasha.
  • Climactic Elevator Ride: The Shafts take an elevator for the final battle against Gordito.
  • Cool Old Guy: Both Shaft Sr. and Shaft II
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: JJ, while drunk, ends up subduing a man with Capoeira in a Bar Brawl.
  • Damsel in Distress: Sasha is kidnapped by the villains before the climax.
  • Deconstruction: The film takes a few hard looks at Shaft II's character, mostly at how it's adversely affected his relationship with Maya.
  • Destination Defenestration: At the climax of the film, Shaft II shoots Gordito out of a window.
  • Didnt Think T His Through: Sasha decides not to run in after JJ after he sneaked into one of the bad guys' compound, calling it a basic move. Unfortunately, she gets captured anyway.
  • Dirty Old Man: Shaft II has an unhealthy obsession with sex.
  • Disney Villain Death: Gordito meets his end this way, after having a knife thrown at his chest and taking multiple gunshots. In a slight subversion, Gordito's body is seen hitting the side of the building and landing on a parked car.
  • Doesn't Like Guns: JJ mentions to his father several times that he has a disdain for guns. On occasion, however, he won't hesitate to use one whenever a shootout occurs.
    JJ: I said I didn't like guns. I didn't say I can't shoot.
  • Flanderization: Appropriate for the franchise’s shift from serious drama to satirical comedy, Shaft II is a lot less hard nosed than he was in the previous film. Here, he's perverted and wisecracking.
  • Flat Character: When compared to fully developed villains like Peoples Hernandez, Walter Wade Jr., and the two dirty cops from the 2000 film - each of the villains in this installment are egregiously generic and one dimensional.
  • Genre Shift: Unlike the first four entries which are crime dramas, this one is a satirical buddy-cop comedy.
  • Groin Attack: Shaft II does this to one guy.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Shaft II begrudgingly comes to understand that some of his homophobic and misogynistic views are not appropriate. Dominguez, a meek young soldier who had a role in Karim's demise, deeply regrets his actions and wants to do the honorable thing by turning himself in. Unfortunately, his cohorts kill him after he suggests that they do the same.
  • Hitman with a Heart: Dominguez. He's clearly drowning in guilt over his involvement in Karim's murder. Shaft II immediately (and correctly) suspects that he's hiding something.
  • It's Personal: Shaft II has been obsessed with catching Gordito because he made an attempt on his life when JJ was still a baby. Adding fuel to the fire, is the fact that Maya and Baby JJ were present during the botched assassination. No one was hurt, luckily. This is what forced Shaft II to keep a distance from JJ and Maya.
    • Karim's death also makes it personal for JJ.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Shaft II is generally a rude, crude, backwards asshole, but he's not wrong when he throws JJ's unwillingness to hurt someone just because she's a woman and ensuing accusation of misogyny on his part right back in his face.
  • Legacy Character: The film adds a third John Shaft, who walks in his predecessors' footsteps (or at least tries to).
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to the original 70s trilogy and the 2000 film, which were all gritty crime dramas, this one is more of an action comedy.
  • Like Father, Unlike Son: JJ is quite nerdy and bumbling, unlike his father John Shaft II, who feels he has to "babysit his ass". The same can be said for Shaft II and Shaft Sr. The elder Shaft is a smooth gentleman, whereas his offspring is a cynical jerk.
  • Manly Tears: Shaft II is visibly holding these back when he explains to JJ the real reason why he was forced to leave him as a baby.
  • Mirror Character:
    • There are early moments that indicate that JJ has more in common with his father than he would admit. Specifically, early in the film JJ attempts to cross the street and is nearly run over by a motorist. JJ then finds the guy's license plate on the FBI database and invalidates the license. This kind of power usage is much like the sort of thing Shaft would do.
    • Another time is when they turn the radio on. JJ plays a pop song; Shaft plays a distinctly 70s soul song. Neither likes each others' taste but the lyrics in the songs are about the same thing: women and making love to them.
  • Mythology Gag: JJ tries to do the same thing as his grandfather, that is trying a Dynamic Entry by swinging into a building through a window. Only this time, the glass doesn't break.
  • Never Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight: John Shaft I and a Mook both find themselves out of ammo for their submachine guns. John Sr. offers to settle it like gentlemen. The mook tries to turn it into a knife fight, so Sr. pulls out a pistol and turns it back into a gunfight.
  • New Meat: JJ is not quite prepared for some extreme situations his father and grandfather can handle as they're hardened veterans from much different eras.
  • Papa Wolf: Regardless of how much he teases him, Shaft II loves JJ more than anything, and stops at nothing to keep him safe from danger. He even takes a bullet from Gordito, to save JJ’s life, demonstrating that he’ll sacrifice himself if it will save his son.
  • Parental Abandonment: Shaft Sr. disowned Shaft II to the extent of faking to be his uncle, instead of owning up to being his father. Also, Shaft II and Maya separated shortly after JJ's birth, and he'd stayed away since, although he sent him (wildly inappropriate) gifts every year for Christmas, birthdays, and graduation.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: Karim's death sends JJ on the hunt for the killer.
  • Recycled Title: The film uses the same title as both the 1971 film and the 2000 film.
  • Retcon: Played with. In the 2000 movie, Jackson was presented as John Shaft's nephew. In this film, Shaft Sr. is revealed as Shaft II’s father, upon Shaft II mentioning that he was only pretending to be his uncle. JJ is shocked to hear this news, but Shaft Sr. immediately gets off the subject.
  • Retired Badass: Both the original John Shaft and John Shaft II are brought out of retirement to help the new John Shaft.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: JJ is the nerdy, peaceful Sensitive Guy to Shaft II's streetwise wise-cracking Manly Man.
  • Sex Is Violence: After the gunfight at the restaurant Shaft II claims that Maya is turned on by all the violence and danger. Immediately after, during the gunfight at JJ's restaurant, the closeups on Sasha's face show that she too is clearly getting turned on by watching JJ shoot people.
  • Spin-Offspring: Jessie Usher plays John Shaft III (a.k.a. JJ), the son of John Shaft II who in turn is the nephew of the original John Shaft.
  • Storming the Castle: The Shafts attacking Gordito's penthouse to rescue Sasha and take Gordito down.
  • Take That!: Shaft II has no problem making fun of perceived issues with millennial culture, even if a lot of it is fairly accurate.
  • Taking the Bullet: At the end of the final battle, Gordito tries to shoot JJ out of spite against the Shafts, but Shaft II jumps in front of JJ and shoots Gordito several times, sending him falling to his death. He collapses shortly after, but later recovers in a hospital.
  • Tag Line: "More shaft than you can handle".
  • Time Passes Montage: There is a montage after the intro showing JJ growing up, meeting Sasha and Karim and moving for his job. One specific recurring portion is Maya with JJ opening very inappropriate age presents from Shaft. This montage is also spliced with a montage of Shaft continuing his job.
  • Took a Level in Badass: JJ, eventually. Though he still has some to learn.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Shaft II, though hard nosed, had a great deal of compassion in the 2000 film. This film presents him as egocentric, judgmental, and homophobic.
    • However, after accosting his son as possibly being gay, Shaft also rattles off a list of other sexual and gender identifiers. It comes off slightly less than homophobic and more of a Take That! at millennial culture.
  • Two Guys and a Girl: JJ, Sasha, and Karim, who have been close friends since elementary school.
  • Unfortunate Names: The veteran's rehab clinic named "Brothers Watching Brothers". JJ has to reaffirm many times it is not a sex thing. Other characters also specifically comment they need to change the clinic's name.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Played with, in regard to Shaft II. He ultimately redeems himself after apologizing to Maya, and making amends with JJ after he overhears a conversation that implies Shaft II was only using him to catch Gordito.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: JJ projectile vomits on two of Shaft’s girlfriends after being unable to keep his liquor down.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: JJ has troubles with hitting women (as in, even in situations where he should defend himself), while he and his father confront a baseball bat-wielding one. She ends up punching him.
    JJ: What is wrong with you?
    John Shaft II: She picked up a bat.
    JJ: You can't beat up a woman.
    John Shaft II: Why not?
    JJ: Because she's a woman! That's like, misogynistic!
    John Shaft II: You're the one being misogynistic. I ain't mentioned her gender.
    JJ: Okay.
    John Shaft II: I'm an equal opportunity ass-whooper.
    [The woman punches JJ in the face, sending him to the ground.]
    John Shaft II: Daaamn!
    JJ: Are there no non-violent people in Harlem?!

♫ You're damn right... ♫