Shaft (1971) Directed by Gordon Parks Shown: Richard Roundtree (as John Shaft)

The 1970s has offered up a wide variety of action movies, all of which have shaped and formed the modern-day equivalents in one way or another. It’s a surprise to me then that I’ve not seen any of these movies whatsoever. From Deliverance to Dirty HarryEnter the Dragon and Mad Max. I’m ashamed, and rightly so. It’s about time I remedy this, and what better way to do it than jump headfirst into Shaft

Richard Roundtree’s classic Shaft is a superb introduction to a genre I should’ve seen more of by now. Filled with tropes and inspiration that has been set as the standard for the action genre, the film takes a more experimental and wild approach to its action, direction and performances. Roundtree is superb as the titular character, John Shaft seems to have been vaguely forgotten about, unless you’re a hardened action fan. Or if you’ve seen the Shaft reboot of course. 

His performance is the right blend of cocky machoism and genuine brutality as he punches, kicks and shoots his way through some iconic scenes. Armed with only a resoundingly strong title theme, John Shaft is tasked with rescuing the kidnapped daughter of Harlem crime boss. From there the film goes on a wild goose chase, not for the daughter, but for subplots, things to do in the meantime and building up a solid final act. 

My only real irk is that, for an action movie, there’s not much action. Not quite reaching the inane and hilarious highs of Commando, nor really expressing itself as a serious action punter like Die Hard. I’m not entirely convinced Shaft knows what style of movie it wants to be. It’s a blessing and a curse, leading to some resourcefully unique scenes, but also some middling scenes and the occasionally poor dialogue. 

There’s definitely something that feels slightly aimless about Shaft that both makes it a less than competent action movie, but at the same time makes it all the more charming and enjoyable to watch. A compelling watch that’ll have you somewhat hoping for more action, there’s a lot less than I’d expected there to be. Even then, it’s great to see Roundtree, his solid performance is more than enough reason to troop on to the very end of this short and sweet action classic. 

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