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Shaft (2019) (Blu-ray Review)

Shaft made his big return to cinemas this summer, but not with much fanfare as when he did back in the summer of 2000. The Tim Story film just cleared over $20 million in box office receipts along with poor reviews from critics (Audiences metrics showed they loved it, though). Many countries only received the film as a Netflix movie though. They should have capitalized on it shortly after the 2000 entry (Which is a pretty damn good film, go seek it out) and made at least 4 of them with Samuel L. Jackson. But, here we are, with him FINALLY reprising his role 19 years later, along with bringing back the original Shaft again for good measure. Kudos to keeping the universe alive and not fully rebooting it in today’s climate. Anyway, the film will be arriving on Blu-ray September 24th, so maybe it’ll find life then and Shaft could return to us in some way, shape or form (He’s no stranger to TV, remember).

Film 

JJ, aka John Shaft Jr. (Jessie T. Usher), may be a cyber security expert with a degree from MIT, but to uncover the truth behind his best friend’s untimely death, he needs an education only his dad can provide. Absent throughout JJ’s youth, the legendary locked-and-loaded John Shaft (Samuel L. Jackson) agrees to help his progeny navigate Harlem’s heroin-infested underbelly. And while JJ’s own FBI analyst’s badge may clash with his dad’s trademark leather duster, there’s no denying family. Besides, Shaft’s got an agenda of his own, and a score to settle that’s professional and personal.

Shaft’s 2019 edition is a far cry from the harder edge the four previous films have sent up, but follows true to the demeanor and style of its lead, the 3rd generation John Shaft. This one goes for comedy first and adds a more caring and heartfelt family dimension to the world. Yeah, I can see where this can piss off someone very much a hardcore of the originals and John Singleton’s 2000 effort and I can’t argue its a hard left turn. However, I also can’t deny that I had some good laughs and enjoy much of the interplay going on in the film.

One big sacrifice the film makes to jump away from its predecessors, is that it really doesn’t have anything to say in terms of social politics or the world at large. That’s not me demanding something be more political, that’s in Shaft’s DNA. Its what the character and series had always been about first and foremost. Here, its not. Shaft 2019 is more about the characters’ familial relationships and generational gaps than the crime or injustices in the world. And that makes its any old average buddy cop movie. However, there still is John Shaft in this mix and the actors elevate the material.

In terms of action, there are some solid shootouts and beats played to score pretty nicely. Tim Story is not stranger to bigger things as he’d done two Fantastic Four films before this (Like them or not). There aren’t any showstoppers, but there’s a good choice to make them a little more personal and character based. And nostalgic me enjoyed seeing Richard Roundtree get some good moments and one liners in again for maybe the last time as the original John Shaft.

Overall, as much beholden as I am to the original 3 Shaft films and the 2000 effort, I still managed to enjoy the 2019 Shaft well enough. I found myself find overall and having a nice laugh or two while enjoying the characters old and new. If you asked me to rank them, this one probably is the weakest film easily, but still worth your time if you’ve seen all the movies up tot his point. Just be aware its purely fluff and nothing as interesting or meaningful as what had come before. This Shaft is for the whole family (that is over the age of 17).

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: A real bummer that Shaft couldn’t be treated to 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray treatment, but this wasn’t some runaway smash film or one that found ecstatic reviews. Nonetheless, this standard Blu-ray suits it just fine. Details and sharpness are very good. The film itself features a very plain kind of color palette, but this image fills it out pretty nicely. This is a very good, strong image in its debut on the home video format.

Depth:  Solid spacing throughout the film with some really nice three dimensional like interiors and good loose freeflying through camera movements. Motion is natural and comes with no real distortion issues.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and more closer to a darker, natural level than that of the gray sort of look that can come with digital films. No crushing witnessed, objects and such keep good detail and definition with darkness and more shadowy looks and sequences.

Color Reproduction: Colors can perform pretty well, despite the very plain palette used in the film. Club scenes and flashier clothing choices will pop through very nicely.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish. Facial textures and details are pretty strong and very nicely defined in medium and close up shots.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos (English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible), English 5.1 Descriptive Audio, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Dynamics: Well, hey, if they aren’t going to give Shaft (2019) a full on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray release, they at least aren’t slouching when it comes to the audio. Warner Bros provides a rock solid Dolby Atmos track that is pretty accurately mixed, opting for a precision moreso than having too much fun, but its a fine engaging experience.

Height: Bullets whizz overhead, club music plays, some voices shout and more come from the ceiling speakers. This one is more true to the film and doesn’t take a whole lot of chances, but it plays with accuracy to onscreen happenings.

Low Frequency Extension: Gunshots, blasts, explosions, glass shattering, engines roaring, crashing, and music all bump quite nicely from the subwoofer.

Surround Sound Presentation: This mix has a pretty good feel for every environment inside and out. The speakers work together to roll the action but also provide plenty of unique instances to help the 360 degree experience.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp. No matter the intensity, the actor’s all sound loud enough, clear enough and part of the environment.

Extras 

Shaft (2019) comes with the DVD edition and a digital copy of the film.

Can Ya Dig It? The Making of Shaft (HD, 10:36) – Tim Story, the writer and the cast discuss resurrecting this franchise, their direction and what to put in the characters for this film. While it plays like a fluff piece with a lot of generalities, it is pretty spoilery.

A Complicated Man: The Shaft Legacy (HD, 44:14) – Richard Roundtree is joined by writers, historians, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Jai White and more in this fantastic little retrospective on the original 3 Shaft films that makes this release totally worth it. Fans will be delighted in this deep dive into the peak era of John Shaft.

  • Part One: A Bad Mother Born
  • Part Two: No Questions Asked
  • Part Three: A Legend of His Time

Deleted Scenes (HD, 2:54)

Gag Reel (HD, 4:53)

Summary 

Shaft is a pretty solid bit of fun in its 2019 iteration. More comedy and less topical than ever, there is still enough to enjoy it on a basic level. Warner Brothers provides a solid performer in terms of audio and video. The extras provide a real treat with a full on retrospective on the character and original movies. This is well worth an add to the collection if you’re a fan of Shaft or liked this movie, possibly just for the retrospective.

Own Shaft on Blu-ray and DVD on September 24, or Own It Early on Digital on September 10.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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