Hey folks, Harry here. Tonight I saw RULES OF ENGAGEMENT, and quite frankly... it kicked serious ass.... I just loved the chemistry between Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L Jackson. Sam is the man... And before the film we saw the amazingly slick and cool trailer that has all the style, flair and essence of cool that... well, it sounds like the film itself might be missing. Opinion on this one is decidedly split. I'm hoping that Segue is on some loco-weed and can't feel the vibe of Shaft coming off of that screen. Perhaps, with Sir Hayes in Digital Surround... thumping pumpin and singing something to set the rhythm for the whole goddamn thing. It's still way way waaaaaay early on this film, so just hold the judgements till we get closer to the gun.
Tonight I saw Shaft. Samuel Jackson's new film directed by Jon Singleton. The short review... it's crap.
The version I saw appeared to be a fairly rough print of the finished product. They didn't hand out questionnaires, they didn't make a speech and it felt finished, but a lot of edits jumped and the color was off occasionally. Not that it matters really.
The film starts with Shaft arriving at the scene of a racially motivated murder. He picks out the bad guy from a crowd of people in a bar thanks to a silent tip from a waitress (played by Toni Collette). Collette witnessed the murder but is afraid to testify. When the bad guy (played by Christian Bale) gets out on bail, he hires a thug he met in jail (played by Jeffrey Wright) to find her and kill her. Shaft ends up quitting the force to look full time for this waitress and put the bad guy a way. And so it go, as just another typical cop film.
I haven't seen the original Shaft, so I can't compare the two. This film seemed to be trying for a hip black version of Dirty Harry. Instead they got something more in line with Low Down Dirty Shame or Mob Squad. Every character, including Shaft, is 1 dimensional. There are no character arches. The story is not only predictable, it is boring too. The level of excessive violence was cool maybe in the 80's, but in this... it just feels... well.. excessive. In this day and age, where we have serious police misconduct scandals in the nation two largest cities, it doesn't sit well to watch Shaft mistreat suspects especially while uniformed cops stand by and watch.
There are many decent actors in this and almost all are wasted. Christian Bale, Toni Collette, Vanessa Williams and the guy from HBO's OZ (sorry I can't remember his name) have almost nothing to do. Dan Hedaya actually has a role, but it is poorly developed. For example, Hedaya plays a bad cop and the only understanding we get for why is... twice he says Private school for my kids cost a lot'. Yeah, I'd risk my career and jail time and kill an innocent witness for that. Wouldn't you? Oh and the ending completely negates the purpose of the film.
The directing is bland. It was nice to look at, but the directing didn't make it cooler. Which is something it felt like they wanted to achieve. Instead it looked flat and contrived. Jackson was fine because he is so likeable no matter what he does. But he plays it by the book and we've seen this side of him before.
Really only two things stand out in the film: It is occasionally pretty funny and Jeffery Wright nails it. Wright takes a boring 1 dimensional character and gives it an edge. Somebody get him a better agent. D-Tox and this? Ride with the Devil was good, but nobody saw it. I want to see this guy in a great film, but I guess I will have to wait.
As for Shaft... catch this one on video.
Consider This... Segue Zagnut