Plot: What’s it about?
You’d think that people would know by now you don’t mess with John Shaft (Richard Roundtree), but it seems like some folks never learn. This time Shaft finds himself in the middle of a battle between two rival mob factions, all of whom want more power and even more money. But how did Shaft become involved in this mess? It seems as though one of Shaft’s friends was running some numbers out of legitimate business and when he died he left $200,000 unaccounted for. As the thugs discovered this money was missing and there for the finder to keep, they’ve been turning the city upside down to locate that dough. These criminals have been shaking down everyone they think might have information, including the dead man’s widow and the baddest cat in the land, John Shaft himself. And we all know John Shaft is not a man how likes to be pushed around so makes sure the thugs know who the man is. Shaft also decides to protect his friend’s widow from the ruthless forces, showing his chivalrous side a little. As Shaft delves deeper into this unusual turn of events the stakes keep rising, the danger keeps growing, and the odds keep stacking against him, but if anyone can solve this mystery, it’s the cat they call Shaft.
This is the follow up to the smash success Shaft and as such faced obstacles from the start. Whenever a movie tries to follow up a movie as popular and influential as Shaft, you know it won’t be easy but if the forces involved take their time it can be done. While I don’t think Shaft’s Big Score! is as good as the original, I can’t imagine someone that liked the first one not liking this one. I love the original and I love the two sequels, in fact Shaft In Africa is my favorite of the trio. But I know my collection would be incomplete without this volume which is packed with all the action and Shaftisms you could ask for. This one has the elements we expect from Shaft such as ass kicking, hilarious quotes, and more and manages to stay true to the original, but it doesn’t open much in terms of new roads. Perhaps that’s why I like the third film so much, because it takes a path far from the ones taken in the first two installments. Regardless this movie deserves a place in any Shaft lover’s collection, as Warner Bros. has issued it with a terrific new anamorphic widescreen transfer. I recommend this as rental or purchase to anyone who likes this series or is interesting in visiting it for the first time.
This film was directed by Gordon Parks, who was also the man behind the camera for the original Shaft motion picture. Here Parks keeps the same feel as the original which is good, but never strays much from that feel. This is still a terrific and fun movie, but some fresher takes on the storyline and such would have improved it greatly. But I still think Parks has done a fine turn on this film in terms of keeping the characters and tone intact, so don’t think I am disappointed with this movie. The camera movies about the same as in the original and the visual composition style is also true to the roots of the first film, which gives a sense of continuity to the films. If you want to see more of Parks’ work I recommend Shaft (of course), The Super Cops, and Leadbelly. Richard Roundtree does not just play Shaft in these movies, Richard Roundtree is Shaft in these movies. No one can do this character justice and I am disappointed Samuel L. Jackson would even attempt to portray the part. Roundtree is awesome in every sense of the word and he really brings this role to life in all three films. The supporting cast includes Moses Gunn (Leonard Part 6), Joseph Mascolo (Sharkey’s Machine), Drew Bundini Brown (Shaft, Peniteniary III), and Kathie Imrie (Street Law).
Video: How does it look?
Shaft’s Big Score! is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, with a full frame version included on the disc’s flip side. While this transfer has some issues I’m confident this is the best the film has ever looked, so I won’t bitch too much. The transfer is free from compression errors, but does show some grain and what not which lowers the overall rating. The colors seem bright when they need to be and flesh tones look natural and consistent, with no distortion in either I could find. The contrast looks sharp at times, with high visible detail level and complex shadow layering. This isn’t a perfect visual presentation, but given the circumstances this is a fantastic one.
Audio: How does it sound?
This release includes the original mono track which handles the audio very well, though the soundtrack begs for a full surround track. Even so the music sounds clear and free from distortion and the effects never become muddled or overpowering. This movie has some moments of impact audio, but isn’t audio driven most of the time so this mono track is adequate. The dialogue is clean and clear and no volume issues emerge to ruin the fun.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This release contains trailers for all three Shaft movies and brief talent files.