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Back in 2003, when comedy blogger "Maddox" had some credibility, he complained about all the lazy Hollywood cookie cutter buddy cop movies. In 2019 we get Shaft, a movie that seems to have hoped that people can't remember 16 years back, when jokes about two detectives being disgusted by each other's music taste on the car radio was already trite, lazy comedy. unfortunately we haven't.
Shaft is as generic a buddy cop movie as one can get. Samuel Jackson returns to his role as John Shaft, an old school detective with an alcohol, woman, and anger problem. Joining him is his son, the straight-laced, millenial, not-black enough FBI analyst, John Shaft Jr. They have to work together on a case to bring down a cartel that has ties to the Islamic community. Almost immediately, the movie feels like a patch work of draft scripts taken from Die Hard sequels and discarded jokes from The Boondocks. None of it feels original, and the whole thing hinges on Samuel L Jackon's natural charisma and gift for angry shouting.
A lot of the gags fall short. The movie hopes that by emphasising Shaft sr's dated perspective and Shaft's jr's horrified response, the show can get away with casually bigoted gay and latin jokes. The film doesn't quite manage to divorce Shaft's dated views from the movie's own though, which are often just as sexist. The film's female characters exist purely to look sexy, bitch at the men, or get into danger. There's a gag towards the end where Alexandra Shipp's character stops herself from stupidly running into danger and getting herself caught, calling it "simple bitch stuff" - it's one of the few original and funny bits. Then two minutes later she still runs into danger and gets herself immediately caught anyway, and the movie plays it completely straight. It's a movie that's smart enough to find fault with blacksploitation tropes, but not smart enough to avoid its own cliched movie tropes.
The movie also has some weirdly positioned political commentary smeared onto it. Things like contemporary Islamophobia and black lives matter appear in the background in scenes, on newspapers or on the tv, but the film doesn't have anything to say about these issues. Like the rest of the movie, it comes across as lazy, low risk writing, contributing to an only occasionally interesting and funny movie.
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