When one thinks back to the 1970’s and 1980’s, trying to define "cool," one name comes up: John Shaft. The star of what were known as "blacksploitation" of that genre was Richard Roundtree.
Roundtree's acting style symbolized changing times, and made many non-African American men of a certain age stand up and take notice, and in many ways also emulate.
Fast forward to today, and like the times, "Shaft," has evolved. Yet, "Shaft" is still cool.
The most recent film version features three generations of "cool," Roundtree, Samuel L. Jackson and Jesse T. Usher. However, it's certainly not watered down for past fans or a new generation just finding out who and what "Shaft" represents today.
"Sure times have changed, and some of the things done in the first film aren’t acceptable today," Roundtree said a few weeks ago while in Harlem promoting the film. "However what hasn’t changed is the way all three characters relate to each other and adapt to a different society that still needs heroes in the community, and that is what Shaft has been about."
The latest film is much more lighthearted guys comedy than hard-core shoot em up, but it still delivers characters who are compelling for the viewer and can relate to multiple generations. Perhaps the original "Shaft" film could not chieve this.
"The challenge we had with this film was making sure it could appeal to a wide amount of people who probably never saw the first films, but could now go back and engage after seeing what this one was about," Jackson added. "That was the opportunity, and I think anyone who comes to see 'Shaft' will be curious and see how these mother******s got here."
Yes, the film features a lot of course language, which will continue to raise eyebrows, but it fits within the storylines and is acceptable for the characters.
If those characters didn’t emploly such language they would not come across as authentic.
Authenticity for today’s consumer, especially a young consumer with a challenged attention span, is key.
What’s also key is the way the three stars relate and engage with each other.
It’s never contrived in the film, and is always a valuable asset.
"It was great to be able to learn from these two masters of the craft," Usher also added.
"As someone who is always striving to improve as an actor, that was key for me, and there could not have been two better role models of professionalism than Richard and Sam in this film."
"Shaft" certainly is not for everyone, especially in our politically correct world.
However, it's a cool respite for a hot summer, and "Shaft" certainly hasn’t lost any of the mojo that Roundtree originally brought to the screen decades ago. "This is always a fun project, and I’m glad it still has a place in our business," Roundtree added.
A place in history, and hopefully with a new generation of fans, "Shaft" is still the epitome of cool.
Ray Negron is a sports executive with over 40 years of experience in baseball. His first job came from a chance encounter with George Steinbrenner as a youth. He has become an American film producer, a best-selling author, and a philanthropist. His memoir is entitled, "Yankee Miracles: Life with the Boss and the Bronx Bombers." For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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