Shaft is a 1971 film starring Richard Roundtree. The film is about John Shaft, a private eye who is hired by a crime lord to find and retrieve his kidnapped daughter. The film illustrates many racial tensions as Shaft attempts to complete his mission. In addition to dealing with kidnappers, Shaft also has to deal with the racism he encounters. The character Shaft helped to change the equation of typical police films and served as a heroic icon for African-American audiences.
Shaft changes the equation of the typical police film of the 1960s because it shows the corruption that existed in that time period. Prior to the 1970s, most cop movies focused on actors that were white. Black characters were often the sidekicks or underlings that worked at the desk. Shaft focused on a black cop. Shaft is gritty, smart, and sarcastic. He is popular with the ladies, but confrontational with the police force. Shaft is hired because he has connections to the projects and he can do things that the authorities cannot. He exposes that being trustworthy of black people seemed risky to the authorities. Shaft succeeds in the face of corruption by structuring his combat.
The film serves as important for African-Americans because of the culture that is illustrated in Shaft. The film gears on struggles related to their culture. The struggles include money, drug-dealing, ransom, and the dangers of the projects. The character Shaft is the key to the film’s depiction of the African-American culture. His rebelliousness, negativity, and violent behavior depicts the importance of the society that African-Americans have lived through. As he walks through the streets and gets denied by a cab driver (he gets denied because he is black), audiences realize the harsh society that African-Americans had to put up with. As Shaft is already self-centered, viewers are able to notice his aggravation with his life. Whites in the film are shown to be absent minded. This is a twist because generally blacks would be shown as the absent minded people during that time period.
Shaft was relevant for the time period because in today’s society, Shaft would not be considered controversial. This is not much of a big deal because society has progressed. Back then, Shaft was made during the Civil Rights Movement. Therefore, when audiences view Shaft, they are taken back to the time period. Shaft was the break through film at the time. It is hard for some to believe that Shaft was a hit back then. This is because it was one of the first movies where someone who is African-American is the lead and given authority.