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Shaft's Big Score [VHS]
When a pal of detective John Shaft is murdered in a bombing (and $250,000 in cash turns up missing), New York's coolest private eye finds himself caught in the middle of a power struggle between black and white gangsters over the numbers racket in Queens. Directed by Gordon Parks (who does a brief cameo as a croupier in an illegal casino) and written by Ernest Tidyman (both of whom did the original Shaft), this film lacks the pacing of its progenitor. Roundtree is at his best when he's questioning a woman he's just met about a suspect while at the same time beguiling her into the sack (ah, those lazy, crazy days of the sexual revolution). The finale--a shootout in a cemetery, followed by a car-boat-helicopter chase through Queens and up the Harlem River--is preposterously drawn-out: Shaft, impervious to machine-gun fire, winds up tripping, spraining his ankle, and limping while running from the chopper; two shots later, he's sprinting like a halfback. Look for late Muhammad Ali trainer Drew Bundini Brown as a wise-cracking mobster. --Marshall Fine
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The basic of the story is not particuarly original. It is about the missing money from the safe of Shaft's friend and insurance broker. As Shaft starts his investigation, a crime syndicate is looking for the money while it tries to kill him, but of course, it's a very, very wrong idea. Our Shaft, keeping the police and Bumpy (Moses Gunn re-appearing from the original) at bay, gets what he wants, as always!
Gordon Parks (who had a long remarkable career as photographer, and himself appearing as a croupier here) demonstrates he is also good at presenting impressive action scenes, especially the chase scenes at the end of the film. However, by the today's standard, they might look too long and stretched. Actually, the stunts themselves are impressive, but if the editing had been tighter, they would be much better.
Richard Roundtree looks as sexy as ever, and entertains us with his suave way of talking to girls. Other characters are drawn better than original "Shaft." Charismatic Julius W Harris is cast effectively as a detective, and the idea of clarinet-playing gangster is interesting. And Drew Bundini Brown's Willy is a standout. The movie is a satisfactory, if not perfect, action thriller.
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