Can you dig it?
Christopher St John
Review by Patrick M Rodgers
Classic Detective Movie
James Bond made intelligence work look sophisticated and sexy, while Sam Spade offered a more tough-guy, common man appeal. But Shaft was what made it *cool* to be a private dick.
While the success of Shaft (which itself owed a little something to “Sweet Sweetback’s Badasss Song”) spawned many sub-standard flicks, some not even viewable as camp by today’s standards, Shaft itself was no-nonsense, offering a straight-ahead gritty feel that was true to the times. No kung-fu hookers, just the mafia and some street thugs for villains. Bumpy Jonas may be no Dr. Evil, but damn, that cat was made of *ice*.
The pacing of the movie may be a bit slow for the MTV generation; the sequence where Shaft methodically chases down leads as to the whereabouts of his mark were authentic at the time, but by today’s standards, are unnecessary and slow. Still, they don’t torpedo the movie, they merely require a little more patience than usual.
While the detective movie has today all but succumbed to the dominance of the action movie (which isn’t really the same thing), this is a fine specimen of one from its heyday. At the time, much was made of the fact that the film’s titular hero was black (and, at the time, there was good cause). Sadly, to a certain extent, this has placed the film in the realm of camp or cult cinema in the minds of many. The fact is that, regardless of how groundbreaking it might have been, Shaft’s place in modern film is not as a piece of black cinema, but rather, as simply a great detective film.