From blockbuster to lackluster, this followup to the enormously popular SHAFT (1971) wastes its appealing hero in an implausible and unexciting plot.
After being summoned by a late-night phone call, private detective John Shaft (Richard Roundtree) arrives at a Queens mortuary owned by Cal Asby (Robert Kya-Hill) just as the building is blown to bits. After Asby's funeral, Shaft discovers that the dead man was behind an illegal numbers racket and
that his former partner Kelly (Wally Taylor) owed a large debt to gangster Gus Mascola (Joseph Mascolo). It turns out Kelly killed Asby for a wad of cash that subsequently disappeared, and now Mascola is pressuring Kelly to give up a share of the numbers racket in payment. Instead, Kelly tries to
pit Mascola against rival gangster Bumpy Jonas (Moses Gunn), with Shaft in the middle.
Mascola's men fail several times to kill Shaft, who retaliates by breaking into Mascola's home and beating him. On a hunch, Kelly digs up Asby's body and discovers that the missing money was buried in his coffin, but Mascola's men have followed him to the cemetery. Mascola arrives and kills Kelly,
then Shaft shows up and escapes with the money, taking Mascola as hostage. A chase ensues, during which Mascola and his men are all killed, and Shaft is left in possession of the cash.
Lest you think that Shaft was only out to line his pockets however, it was earlier made clear that criminal kingpin Asby, the soft-hearted lug, had earmarked the dough for a children's hospital in Harlem, and Shaft only wanted to see that the money arrived at its intended destination. The film is
loaded with such dubious motivations and unlikely coincidences. Days after the funeral, for no particular reason, Shaft sneaks into the mortuary to hide in a coffin, just moments before Kelly decides to finally question the attendant who was on duty the night Asby died, leading to the revelation
of where the money was hidden. Kelly's girlfriend Rita (Kathy Imrie) is simply a plot device in a skimpy top. Shaft shows up at Kelly's apartment to find him gone; instead he beds Rita and then when Kelly actually comes home, sneaks out the back door. Rita then disappears for the bulk of the film,
reappearing out of the blue at Shaft's door just as he needs help to escape a police stakeout. Curiously enough, she happens to be a skilled race driver, and eludes the cops, then the bad guys, vanishing once again as Shaft switches to a boat during the final chase sequence.
The chase takes up the last 20 minutes of the film. Bad guys pursue by car and helicopter, but since they don't want to risk harming Shaft's hostage, there's little feeling of danger. Once Mascolo is killed, the pursuers prove to be such miserable shots that the entire crew of them can't manage to
hit Shaft from aloft or the ground as he runs in a straight line across an open field, or for that matter even after he hurts his leg and limps slowly away from a gunmen less than a dozen feet behind. On the other hand, scenes of the helicopter whizzing around the docks and chasing Shaft into a
darkened warehouse are genuinely exciting and well-filmed.
Shaft is even more of a sex machine than in his previous outing, with every woman in the film aching to get him between the sheets, from Rita to Asby's sister to the cigarette girls and dancers in Mascola's club. In a memorable sequence, Shaft is beaten outside the club, intercut with images of
the strippers dancing furiously, clad (barely) in wild costumes and body paint. As with an earlier segment at the funeral, there's no dialogue, just a funky song on the soundtrack, sung by O.C. Smith and written by director Gordon Parks, Sr. Copying the wah-wah guitar treatment from Isaac Hayes's
massively popular and trendsetting score for the original film, Parks's music unfortunately pales in comparison to its predecessor, with Hayes contributing but one tune this time. Parks's journeymanlike direction likewise lacks the gritty atmosphere of the first installment, and the third and
final film in the series, SHAFT IN AFRICA, was made without his involvement. (Graphic violence, extensive nudity, sexual situations, extreme profanity.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1972
- Rating: R
- Review: From blockbuster to lackluster, this followup to the enormously popular SHAFT (1971) wastes its appealing hero in an implausible and unexciting plot. After being summoned by a late-night phone call, private detective John Shaft (Richard Roundtree) arrives… (more)