Forty years of gumshoe noir collided with black power in this 1971 action classic, the most popular of the blaxploitation pictures. Compared with the raging Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, released two months earlier, the MGM-backed Shaft seems pretty tame politically, but it yielded the definitive 70s soul brother: Richard Roundtree as supercool John Shaft (introduced in the Isaac Hayes theme song as “the black private dick that’s a sex machine to all the chicks”). Moses Gunn is the dope-dealing racketeer who hires Shaft to track down his kidnapped daughter. Adapted by Ernest Tidyman from his novel, this suffers from some sluggish dialogue scenes, but the movie comes to vibrant life whenever director Gordon Parks hits the streets of New York.
R • 1 hour 40 min • 1971