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Thursday, June 15, 2000

Since ''The Brady Bunch,'' Donny and Marie and disco have escaped from the 1970s time capsule, it was inevitable that the decade's ultimate black hero blasted into the New Millennium.


More a delayed sequel than a remake, this chapter of the Blaxploitation series begun back in 1971 introduces us to the original John Shaft's nephew (Samuel L. Jackson), a police detective with a fierce sense of justice. When a racist rich kid (''American Psycho's'' Christian Bale) fatally bludgeons a black man, Shaft must track down and protect the lone witness (''The Sixth Sense's'' Toni Collette) from the murderer, corrupt cops and a vicious, low-rent drug lord.


Jackson wears cool like he wears Shaft's ultra-stylish Armani wardrobe. Though, like the film, the actor never sacrifices depth for flash. The actor manages to convey more with a glance than a decade's worth of catch-phrase-spouting action stars. Jeffrey Wright masterfully manages to be alternatingly comical and threatening as Shaft's criminal counterpart, while Vanessa L. Williams sheds all traces of beauty queen and balladeer for her turn as the armed woman-behind-the man. Add Collette, Bale and Richard Roundtree (the original Shaft) to the cast list, and you know this isn't your standard shoot-'em-up flick.


Though the film has been criticized for the main man's lack of trademark womanizing, director John Singleton should be credited for focusing on action, crime and character. We finally have a summer action film built on sharp dialogue, vivid characters and genuine adrenaline rushes.

Bottom Line

Get the Shaft!