So they're remaking one of the seminal films of the '70s. Again. And this time they're making it a comedy.
Shaft isn't a prestige film, but it's an important one. For the first time it brought the African American community into the filmmaking process in all the top line positions in front of and behind the camera and was a massive financial success and an Oscar winner (Isaac Hayes won for his original title song). It spawned a whole wave of creative low-budget highly entertaining black-centric films lovingly dubbed "blaxploitation" by cinephiles.
The film was remade in 2000 by John Singleton with Samuel L. Jackson playing the title character. They made that one a sneaky sequel with Jackson's character actually being the original Shaft's nephew. Now they're remaking it again, but taking a similar tact.
Tim Story will be directing this new film which is said to feature Samuel L. Jackson, Richard Roundtree and a new member of the Shaft family, played by Jessie T. Usher. It is said that it would be more of a comedy than a straight forward crime story like the previous entries and this film will debut in the prime summer season slot of June 14th, 2019.
Blaxploitation as a subgenre always had a lighter, fun tone so it's not a huge leap to go funny with this, but I worry for two reasons.
One, Tim Story is directing this. He did solid comedic work with Barbershop, but made some of the worst big budget superhero films ever with Fox's Fantastic Four and Rise of the Silver Surfer. He doesn't have the best track record.
Two, they've already made a couple really great blaxploitation comedies, my favorite of which is Undercover Brother.
But I can't deny being curious at seeing Sam Jackson play around in this universe again.
This might be a good time to point out a few blaxploitation classics you might have missed. These are totally worth tracking down:
Truck Turner - Isaac Hayes scores AND stars in this film about a washed out bounty hunter who pisses off a Madame played by Star Trek's Nichelle Nichols and she puts a hit out on him. It's super fun!
Black Belt Jones - Jim Kelly stars as the most kick ass martial artist with the most badass afro you've ever seen. They take a traditional chop socky formula of the mentor's dojo being taken over by rivals (in this case the mafia wipes out the hood's dojo) and the students having to save the day. One of the most purely entertaining movies ever made.
Coffy - Pam Grier is the queen of this genre. She has a ton of great leading roles in the '70s, but her most famous (and best) are this, Coffy, and Foxy Brown. In Coffy she plays an older sister who decides to single-handedly take revenge against all the dope pushers in town after her little sister gets hooked.
Dolemite - What it lacks in production value it more than makes up for in pure force of personality. Rudy Ray Moore is one hell of a character and boy does he give 110% in this movie. In this movie Dolemite is a pimp who, along with his karate call girls, takes down a rival pimp and his thugs. If you ever saw Black Dynamite that movie's kind of a mix between Shaft, Black Belt Jones and Dolemite. The trailer for this movie is better than most films you've ever seen.
There's a dozen more quality examples of blaxploitation that covers all sorts of genres, like westerns (Three the Hard Way) and horror (Abby, the Black Exorcist, or Sugar Hill, a zombie movie), but this is a good start.
Let me know if you track any of these down and what you think.