Shaft - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Shaft Reviews

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October 23, 2016
John Shaft (Richard Roundtree), a private detective, is informed that some gangsters are looking for him. Police Lt. Vic Androzzi (Charles Cioffi) meets Shaft and unsuccessfully tries to get information from him on the two gangsters. After Androzzi leaves, Shaft spots one of the men waiting for him in his office building. He commandeers the first gangster, forcing him into his office where the second gangster is waiting. After a quick fight, Shaft dodges one of them who goes out the window, while the other surrenders and reveals to him that Bumpy Jonas (Moses Gunn), the leader of a Harlem-based organized crime family, wanted Shaft brought uptown to Harlem for a meeting. At the police station, Shaft lies to Lt. Androzzi and the Detective assigned to the second gangster's death at Shaft's office, by saying that his friend was in an "accident". He is allowed to return to the streets for 48 hours. Shaft arranges a meeting with Bumpy, the leader of these gangsters, in his office. It turns out Bumpy's daughter has been kidnapped, and Shaft is asked to enable her safe return...

The critical reception of Shaft was mixed. In general, the film was applauded for its innovation, success, and its lasting effect on the film industry. "Because of the film's positioning securely within the parameters of industry standards, Shaft was generally applauded by the critics both black and white, as being a breakthrough production in terms of expanding black representation in commercial cinema." Despite his enjoyment of the movie, Vincent Canby also stated that it wasn't a quality film, but an entertaining one. Other critics like Clayton Riley mainly found fault in the films' failure to "deal with Black life in serious terms." Riley harshly stated, "Mediocre is the only word to describe the work of Gordon Parks, the director of this nonsense, inept is the kindest thing to say about the performances of Richard Roundtree as John Shaft, a Black private eye on the prowl for kicks in the Big Apple underworld." Commenting on the film shortly after its release, New York Times movie critic Vincent Canby accurately predicted the wave of blaxploitation films to follow: "How audiences react, however, has a great deal to do with the kind of movies that do get made, and having watched the extraordinary receptions given to both Sweet Sweetback and Shaft I'm led to wonder if, perhaps, the existence of what seems to be a large, hungry, black movie audience-an audience whose experiences and interests are treated mostly in token fashion by TV-might not be one of the more healthy and exciting developments on the current movie scene." Shaft greatly impacted future blaxploitation films which "crudely tried to emulate the success of Shaft and Sweetback, repeated, filled in, or exaggerated the ingredients of the Blaxploitation formula, which usually consisted of a pimp, gangster, or their baleful female counterparts, violently acting out a revenge or retribution motif against corrupt whites in the romanticized confines of the ghetto or inner city." Belonging to the "blaxploitation" genre made popular in the 70s, "Shaft" broke new grounds in many ways. The genre suffered normally from lacking of money to create something really tangible, but it still created several films that stands out as intriguing film treasures. The NYC setting with a classic hard boiled private eye on a mission is nothing new under the sun, but with the focus on a coloured main hero and his actions stood out in 1971. Shaft is tough as nails and take no shit from anybody no matter what. Heīs cool, hip, street smart, direct, fast with the ladies and never far from using his gun or hands. Richard Roundtree puts Shaft on the map for sure. However, the storyline is a bit here and a bit there as director Gordon Parks seems to have been unsure what he was trying to achieve. I found it a bit static and it didnīt seem to have aged that well either. I reckon in 2016 it seems maybe not that controversial or intriguing as it was in 1971. And we canīt forget the great music score by soul legend Isaac Hayes.

Trivia: "Shaft" was one of the first blaxploitation films, and also one of the most popular, which "marked a turning point for this type of film, and spawned a number of sequels and knockoffs. Widely considered a prime example of the blaxploitation genre, "Shaft" was selected in 2000 for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." "Shaft" was extremely successful in theaters, which was a huge accomplishment for the then-struggling MGM studios. It was produced at a cost of $1.2 million while earning $10.8 million in its first year of distribution, $7 million in the U.S. alone. This film was wildly popular among the African-American community, as "blacks spent their money on an endless list of spinoff trinkets identified with the film such as 'Shaft suits, watches, belts and sunglasses, leather coats, decals, sweatshirts and night shirts, beach towels, posters, after shave lotion and cologne.'" Rare for blaxploitation films, Shaft was also a crossover hit, as the white community was "drawn in by the unthreatening racial politics."
October 18, 2016
paved the way for cop action films in future years but found it a bit boring. The film wasn't as cool as the theme song
½ July 25, 2016
6.5/10. 7-25-2016

Original rating: 3-15-2010 (6/10). "Who's the cat that won't cop out when there's danger all about?? SHAFT!!!"
July 16, 2016
Shaft kicks ass and takes no prisoners!
½ July 2, 2016
Great atmosphere and locations but not nearly as much action as I would have expected
½ June 25, 2016
Shaft (1971) ?? 1/2 C-100m. D: Gordon Parks. Richard Roundtree, Moses Gunn, Charles Cioffi, Lawrence Pressman. Crime boss hires black private eye to locate his daughter. Not a very good film, but it does boast the Oscar-winning title song by Isaac Hayes. Followed by two sequels: SHAFT'S BIG SCORE, SHAFT IN AFRICA, and remade in 2000 with Samuel L. Jackson.
March 17, 2016
Outdated in many ways, but still pretty entertaining
October 24, 2015
A mediocre action film.
½ August 28, 2015
Perhaps an important film in the history of blaxploitation, it's nevertheless seems less so now. The only thing that still seems fresh from the film is the theme song.
Super Reviewer
July 24, 2015
Gordon Park's slick, groundbreaking black exploitation crime drama has Ernest Tidyman's super cool suave black private detective John Shaft, played persuasively by Richard Roundtree, hired to find the kidnapped daughter of an infamous Harlem drug-lord named Bumpy, well-played by the late Moses Gunn. Good direction by Parks, and some solid action. Fine supporting performances from Charles Cioffi, Christopher St. John, Drew Bundini, and Gwenn Mitchell. The film benefits greatly from the late Isaac Hayes' soulful Academy Award winning theme song. A classic of the 70s cinema. Highly Recommended.
Super Reviewer
June 25, 2015
Deserves a place in cinematic history but it's still really average.
May 1, 2015
I want a brown leather trench coat
½ January 11, 2015
The first and the best of the blaxloitation movie from 1971. John Shaft meets the mafia to get the daughter of the harlem crime boss back at the Caffe Reggio on Macdougal St in the Village near NYU...
½ December 9, 2014
The key elements of such a stylish, cool entertainment are in the atmospheric moments, the scenes where characters are allowed to interact and drive the story.
½ October 7, 2014
This movie has one of the best soundtracks of all time. Most of the music is an original score by Isaac Hayes and is sensational. The movie has an interesting plot and moves along quickly. The main character is an asshole. He is a racist womanizer, portrayed well by Richard Roundtree, who is as much anti-hero as hero. The movie took place in the 1970s and heavily showcases the racial tension of the era. Shaft is a "black private dick" (private investigator) who has no respect for the law or law enforcement, but has a close affiliation with the police anyway. This earns him disgust from both law enforcement (with the exception of one detective who trusts him for an unknown reason) and the black community which sees him as being too close to law enforcement. He is hired because of his outsider status by a black kingpin of a criminal organization to rescue his daughter who has been kidnapped by a rival criminal group. This movie relies heavily on stereotypes of the time: all of the black characters are either poor, thugs, or both; all of the white characters are racist, inept, mentally impaired, gay, and/ or uncool; all of the women are sex-objects. This movie offers an interesting look at the social issues of the time while delivering an action-heavy plot.
September 18, 2014
One of my favorite action movies. Just incredibly brilliant and far, far more than a "blaxploitation" flick. It's actually a great story on race relations, especially the relationship between Shaft and Lt. Androzzi, and how we can't just paint each other with the same brush. From the classic opening scene, director Gordon Parks puts his foot on the gas and does not let up. And Richard Roundtree is absolutely perfect as the cool, confident Shaft. I'm not gonna shut my mouth, 'cause I'm talking about Shaft.
August 13, 2014
A landmark blaxploitation film with an incredible soundtrack.
½ May 28, 2014
Not the most exciting movie ever made.
½ May 27, 2014
Great movie. Entertaining, funny, good action, great performance from Roundtree, great soundtrack, and great style.
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