Eli Reed
EW Staff
April 21, 2000 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Shaft

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
R
runtime
98 minutes
Wide Release Date
06/16/00
performer
Samuel L. Jackson, Vanessa Williams, Jeffrey Wright, Christian Bale, Toni Collette, Dan Hedaya, Busta Rhymes
director
John Singleton
Producers
New Deal Productions, Paramount Studios, Scott Rudin Productions
distributor
Paramount Pictures
author
Shane Salerno, John Singleton
genre
ActionAdventure

We gave it a B

When Jackson heard that ”Boyz N the Hood” director Singleton was updating (not remaking) the 1971 blaxploitation classic, he assumed action vet Wesley Snipes would play the part. ”And when it came to me,” he says, ”I thought ‘This could be interesting, or it could be a catastrophe.”’ Specifically, Singleton and Jackson didn’t want to dis Richard Roundtree, the original Shaft. Solution: Roundtree is back as Shaft, 29 years older.

Says Jackson: ”So it turns out that he’s still the black private dick who’s a sex machine with all the chicks — and I’m his nephew.” Ironically, Jackson says he and Singleton had to persuade their prudish producers to actually include some demonstrations of said sexual prowess. ”We were like, ‘What part of that song do you NOT understand?”’ Speaking of the song, the director quickly reenlisted Isaac Hayes, who won an Oscar for his original theme song and will record a new version for this film.

Singleton saw the original ”Shaft” when he was a kid as part of a double bill with Bruce Lee’s ”The Chinese Connection”; it’s been a dream project of his since ”Boyz.” ”It was just really cool to see a black hero,” says Singleton. ”He was just a badass dude, you know, talking shit and kicking ass.” Does Jackson make for a good Shaft? ”Oh, yeah,” says Singleton. ”Sam’s best movies are when he’s talking shit, and this is definitely a shit-talking movie.”

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