That Shaft (Richard Roundtree) truly is one bad mother… well, I’d best shut my mouth, even though I’m only talkin’ ‘bout Shaft. Can you dig it?
Even if you’re white, “Shaft” is one of the blaxploitation movies that can really reach across all colors and barriers, simply because Shaft is such a cool sonofabitch. Everyone likes him. Black Panthers? Shaft’s friends. Blind people? Shaft’s friends. Gay bartenders? Shaft’s friends. Hippies? Shaft’s friends. Jews? Shaft’s friends. Old Italian cops? Also Shaft’s friends. Shaft truly is one of the people in this world who reaches out across all races, creeds, philosophies, and barriers simply through the power of his awesome fashion sense (I want that black leather coat he’s got) and incredible coolness.
Now, Ron, you mentioned all sorts of people, but not women. Is Shaft a friend to the ladies? Well, that depends. Do you mean ‘friend’ as in treats women well, or do you mean ‘friend’ as in ‘has a strong pimp hand and puts the bitches in their place, his bed’? If you said the second one, then Shaft truly is a friend to everyone. Shaft has a hot black girlfriend, and he fucks a hot white woman. Once he’s done fucking the white bitch, he does what every man dreams of; he tells her to get the hell out of his apartment and not to let the door hit her in the ass on the way out! When his girlfriend says that she loves him, he says ‘Yeah, I know. Take it easy.’
Can you see why Shaft is everyone’s hero (except feminists, who don’t count as people)? Brother has a way with the bitches that most men could not get away with today, AND he’s down with O.P.P. Yeah, you know him.
Shaft’s a cool character, to be sure, but does the movie do him justice? Well, the first key to a successful blaxploitation flick is to be cool, and “Shaft” the movie is very cool. It’s probably aged the best out of all the 70’s flicks I’ve seen in my many years of watching late-night TV. A lot of films from the period come off as cheesy, but “Shaft” takes itself seriously, and no amount of 70’s lingo can detract from a flick this gritty and exciting. If anything, it makes the movie better.
Bumpy Jonas (Moses Gunn)’s daughter Marcy (Sherri Brewster) is kidnapped, but nobody knows who did it. Bumpy, the HNIC of Harlem’s whores, drugs, and numbers racket, has a lot of enemies. On one hand, the Black Panthers lead by Ben Buford (Christopher St. John) hate him for the way he’s poisoning their community. On the other hand, the Mafia want Harlem, because they know that black people love to do drugs, have sex with whores, and gamble illegally. On a third hand, you’ve got the cops, lead by Det. Vic Androzzi (Charles Cioffi), who want this shit stopped before it becomes an all-out war in the streets.
In the middle of all this? Shaft, the only thread these four groups have in common. How’s he gonna get out of this and still manage to save his own ass?
Driven by Richard Roundtree’s coolness and a spectacular movie score from Isaac Hayes, the likes of which no one could do today, “Shaft” excels not just as the biggest and arguably best serious blaxploitation flick, but as one of the all-time greatest and most influential films from the early 1970’s. Shaft truly is a cat who won’t cop out when there’s danger all about.