A new Shaft movie is bringing audiences three iconic detectives for the price of one.
The trailer for latest installment Shaft (formerly Son of Shaft) has premiered on Jimmy Kimmel Live, starring Samuel L. Jackson, Jessie Usher and original “bad mother…” Richard Roundtree.
Usher picks up the baton as John “JJ” Shaft III, an MIT-trained FBI agent and computer expert who turns to his father (Jackson) to help solve the case of his deceased best friend.
Things haven’t been right between the pair for a while, and what better way for the family to reunite than over a few fights and explosions?
According to Deadline, “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.”
The trailer showcases a raft of quips, punches and clashes between the generations. “I’m an equal opportunity ass whooper!” Jackson exclaims, in response to his son’s horror over him fighting a woman.
Directed by Tim Story (Barbershop) and written by Kenya Barris (Black-ish), the movie is produced by John Davis and based on characters created by Ernest Tidyman.
His novel inspired Gordon Parks’ 1971 blaxploitation classic, starring future grandfather Roundtree. The author wrote five Shaft books. His last was 1975’s The Last Shaft.
Tidyman was white, but wanted to create a better black character than the ones on offer. Speaking to the LA Times in 1972 he revealed “The blacks I knew were smart and sophisticated, and I thought, what about a black hero who thinks of himself as a human being, but who uses his black rage as one of his resources, along with intelligence and courage.”
Blackflix.com wrote, “The original John Shaft was the ‘black’ answer to James Bond. He made love and killed in the same afternoon and had a cool theme song. With his militant attitude and black leather trench coat, he flawlessly delivered unprintable one-liners and smooth Bogart comebacks.”
Roundtree wasn’t a fan of the term “blaxploitation”. He was quoted as saying, “I find that word offensive with anything that Gordon Parks has done. Exploitation, and then put black in front of it! That is a very ugly term from where I sit. And the ugliest part about it was the black press started it.”
Nevertheless, Shaft became an icon. Two sequels were made, Shaft’s Big Score! (1972) and Shaft In Africa (1973). Isaac Hayes’ famous theme song has always accompanied the “cat who won’t cop out when there’s danger all about,” and is heard during the new trailer.
A short-lived TV version (1973-4) toned down the character and was criticized before director John Singleton got things back on track with Jackson in 2000. That same year Shaft was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress.
While Jackson’s version of Shaft was lean and mean, he’s dialed it down almost 20 years on. “He’s mellowed a bit,” the actor told Entertainment Weekly in 2018. “He’s not quite as crazy and cynical. Maybe a bit more devil-may-care the last time we saw him. But still an extremely dangerous and funny character.”
As with Roundtree, it’s hoped playing Shaft will turn Jessie Usher into a superstar. He’s best known for his role in Survivor’s Remorse and appeared in 2016’s Independence Day: Resurgence.
He also took part in Creed II, another franchise (Rocky) that’s been brought back with a family twist. Shaft 2019 co-stars Regina Hall, Alexandra Shipp and Method Man.
The New Line film opens the American Black Film Festival on June 12th before going on general release two days later. It will then hit Netflix later in the month.