Samuel L. Jackson stars as the title New York police detective in this 2001 feature, which seems less a remake than a retooling of the original 1971 blaxploitation thriller. It’s more street-smart, more PC, less dictated by sexist fantasy, and a lot closer to Dirty Harry, at least until a plot twist near the end turns it away from the other film’s indictment of the justice system. After arresting a spoiled white college kid (Christian Bale) who’s committed a blatantly racist murder, only to see him escape on bail, Shaft hopes to nab the kid when he returns to the city a couple of years later. Director John Singleton, who collaborated on the script with Richard Price and Shane Salerno, has some bitter observations to make about police corruption, though neither a consistent social critique nor any developed sense of character is ultimately allowed to intrude on the usual muddled studio committeethink. But as an action thriller with music by Isaac Hayes it’s not bad. With Vanessa Williams, Jeffrey Wright, Busta Rhymes, Dan Hedaya, and Toni Collette. 99 min. (JR)

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