Shaft\’s Big Score\! Film Details
Overview: Shaft is back to find the murderer of an old friend on the cold hard city streets with a little help from his new friends.
Tagline: Last time he was nice. This time he’s ice!
Review: The difference between “Shaft” and “Shaft’s Big Score” is that director Gordon Parks flaunts a bigger, beefer budget. Whereas the production values on the original “Shaft” seemed threadbare, “Shaft’s Big Score” boasts a thick carpet piled with production values. Unmistakably, “Shaft’s Big Score” is an impressively photographed epic with “The Seven Ups” lenser Urs Furrer teaming back up with Parks. Furrer creates eloquent visual compositions with his Panavision cameras, especially during an exciting car, boat, and helicopter chase. Nothing is claustrophobic about this spacious sequel. Okay, Issac Hayes doesn’t reprise his role as composer. Instead, Parks performs double duty as composer with three songs for O.C. Smith that he penned the lyrics to so he could take up the slack wherever he could. The opening moments of this “Shaft” have been staged with considerable finesse. The cross-cutting between Shaft at the wheel of a car in route to meet with a close friend, Cal Asby (Robert Kya-Hill) and the friend pacing his insurance office is nicely done. Joseph Mascolo’s mafia villain is not your usual thuggish type. He is an accomplished clarinet player who appreciates the finer things in life. Ernest Tidyman, who created the “Shaft” character, penned the sequel, and he doesn’t retread the original. Crime boss Bumpy Jones (Moses Gunn of “Shaft”) and his bodyguard Willy (Drew Bundini Brown) reappear here, too, but Captain Bollin (Julius W. Harris of “Live and Let Die”) replaces Lieutenant Vic Androzzi (Charles Cioffi of “Shaft”).Yes, there is a coffee gag reminiscent of the original where Shaft orders his coffee black from Bollin’s subordinate Cooper. Naturally, when Cooper returns, he hands Shaft a coffee with cream and three sugars. A partner in a New York City numbers racket, Cal Asby, dies in an explosion and his partner John Kelly (Wally Taylor of “Rocky III”) searches for the loot that Asby cleaned out of the safe. Meanwhile, the Mafia wants half of the action, and Kelly already owes mob boss Gus Mascola (Joseph Mascolo of “Jaws 2”) a quarter of a million dollars. Kelly has a gambling debt that he owes Mascola, and Mascola wants to cut up the numbers racket that Asby and Kelly have. As it turns out, Cal Asby’s half of the organization belongs to his younger sister, Arna Asby (Rosalind Miles of “The Black Six”), and she is in bed with private detective John Shaft when Asby calls Shaft at 2 AM and informs him that he has deposited $5-thousand in his bank account. Asby and Shaft are friends so when Ashby dies in the explosion, Captain Bollin wonders if Shaft hasn’t gone over to the other side because he saw Shaft speaking with Bumpy and Willy after Asby’s funeral. Bollin knows that Asby and Kelly are running numbers, but they haven’t harassed their operation because it doesn’t involve loan sharking, drugs, and prostitution. Meanwhile, Kelly learns from custodian, Jesse (Jimmy Hayeson) at the funeral home that Asby had a shopping bag with him before he died and he entered the casket display room where the models are arranged for customers to review. Shaft wants answers from Kelly, and Kelly asks that Gus take Shaft off his back. Shaft outsmarts a couple of Italian mobsters who call on him. Eventually, Gus and his men get to Shaft and rough him up behind a Mother Ike’s night club. This entire scene is lensed in slow-motion. If turnabout is fair play, Shaft retaliates later when Willy and he masquerade as window washers and break into Gus’s luxurious penthouse. Shaft beats up Gus, and Willy drops Pascal (Joe Santos of “Blue Thunder”) with a bottle across the top of his head. Afterward, Gus tells Pascal to take the red peppers that he sent him out to fetch and use them as suppositories. Anyway, Kelly concludes that Asby must have stashed the loot in his coffin so he takes a crew out to the Oakland cemetery, and they exhume the casket. The Italians descend on the graveyard by helicopter. Gus gets every dollar bill from Kelly because Kelly owes him everything, and then Pascal’s men riddle the lot of them with lead. By this time, Shaft has shown up, and he surprises the Italians, disarms them, and takes Gus as a hostage. Kelly’s girlfriend, Rita (Kathy Imrie of “16 Blocks”), takes the wheel while Shaft slams Gus into the backseat. Pascal pursues them in a Dodge Charger for a lengthy, careening, high speed automobile chase. The Italians in the helicopter code-named 2-4 Whiskey hover over the scene, and a marksman with a sniper rifle takes potshots at them. Shaft returns fire with what appears to be an automatic shotgun. Shaft transfers Mascola to a speedboat and cuffs him to it. Finally, Mascola dies when the speedboat that Shaft stole hits an embankment and blows up. The helicopter continues its pursuit of Shaft through an old, abandoned factory building. Indeed, this chase looks like something out of either Alfred Hitchcock or James Bond. Shaft stashes the $250-thousand in the weeds and shoots Pascal and then takes out the helicopter. “Shaft’s Big Score” lives up to its title. The plot is complicated enough without being obtuse. The visual look and design are impeccable. This is such a polished piece of celluloid that it’s difficult to believe that Parks and Furrer could exhibit such artistry. Several women appear nude from the waist up. Parks appears in a cameo in Mother Ike’s night club. The scene at the elevator between Kelly and an elderly African-American lady is hilarious. Kelly complains about her use of the elevator, and she asks him where his f*&king manners are. The music is different and bolsters the savage action. Roundtree nails the Shaft persona again, and the rest of the cast is good, especially Joe Santos as Pascal. Parks doesn’t wear out his welcome either as “Shaft’s Big Score” clocks in at a 105 minutes. This is a vintage example of blaxploitation as its slickest.
Duration: 104 min
Genre: Action, Crime, Drama, Thriller
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