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Shaft review

The king of early ’70s blaxploitation flicks receives a makeover later this year courtesy of John Singleton and Samuel L Jackson. To understand why they’re bothering, you only have to watch the start of the original. On its own, the sight of Shaft – leather trenchcoated and sideburned to the max – prowling through the New York streets would be stylish enough. But slather Isaac Hayes’s Oscar-bagging wah-wah guitars all over it (“Who’s the black private dick that’s a sex machine...?”) and you understand that while some opening sequences are better, they don’t come any cooler.

Hard-assed New York PI Shaft (Roundtree) has an eye, as well as other bits, for the ladies, but between bouts of indiscriminate bedding he contrives to become involved in a kidnapping case. Soon he’s got the Mafia, a Harlem gangster and the law all over him like a cheap suit...

The surprise is just how well Shaft’s aged. Yeah, there’re a few more unintentional guffaws to be found in it these days (eg white cops using the word “cat”) and a big plot lull in the middle, but by and large it’s a fantastically sassy spin on the hard-boiled PI thriller. And the last 25 minutes are an object lesson in the art of ending a movie with a bang.

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