I know it’s been all of two days since my last mini-marathon, but I couldn’t resist. With three big films of the “blaxploitation” genre appearing on the list, and at the risk of watching too much of the same thing all in a row, let’s have some super-fine fun with a Blaxploitation-a-thon. First up is that seminal of seminal works of the genre, about the man who never takes no shit from anyone: Shaft. This is actually my first time seeing this film, but I had a pretty defined picture in my mind of what to expect. What I got wasn’t exactly everything I was expecting, but the pervasive mood was exactly note for note.
The film starts out normal, for about the first few seconds, then BAM; the opening of the theme kicks in, and you’re suddenly in the film. The story deals with the titular New York private detective as he is hired to track down the local mob boss’ kidnapped daughter, but the story’s not what’s important. It’s the mood that’s important, and the characterization; the Book uses the analogy of Shaft being the pre-eminent example of a by-the-books story that’s there solely to hold up a single character, and I agree with that so much I thought it warranted a mention. Shaft is a pioneer for the strong, smooth black men characters, who are headstrong to the point of absurdity and literally do as they please, with anyone they please, and always get their way. Such characters would be extremely off-putting in real life, but because this is a movie, such feelings fall by the wayside in the face of fantasy and entertainment value, and for the black community that, until then, had to suffice with supporting black characters who remained subservient in almost every way to their white counterparts, it served as the ultimate form of wish fulfillment.
Shaft did much to define the blaxploitation genre, and was one of the films to largely generate it altogether. It went on to win widespread popularity with black and, oddly enough, white audiences both, and spawned a host of subsequent blaxploitation films in its wake. So, how good is Shaft, really? Actually, not that good, once you look past the mood and the character of Shaft himself and get down to the interior of the film. The story and script are both somewhat hackneyed, and the story itself seems to go in one direction before just abruptly cutting itself off with a conclusion that chops off the whole second half of what the story should’ve been. And the technicals; don’t even get me started on the technicals. Each line sounds different from the next line, some obvious overdubbing was used (sometimes to hilarious over-effect), and the quality of the film dropped drastically in a few certain shots. I would’ve been fine with a few little mistakes, since this was a somewhat under-the-radar film, but the little mistakes just kept adding and adding up, until I could no longer excuse them anymore. But that’s just me; I’ve mentioned before how I tend to get hung up on the technicals, to the point where bad ones actually detract from the experience of the film for me – they probably won’t for you, so as long as you’re fine with the whole blaxploitation mood, Shaft will serve your needs well enough.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10