With its Vacation remake out this Friday, New Line is already reaching back to the ’70s to dust off another title. Shaft, the cult 1971 Blaxploitation flick starring Richard Roundtree, is being remade with a new script from Black-ish creator Kenya Barris and Alex Barnow, an executive producer-writer on ABC’s The Goldbergs.
John Davis, who produced The Man From U.N.C.L.E. as well as the upcoming Victor Frankenstein, will produce this new take alongside Ira Napoliello.
The plan is for Shaft to adhere to the action roots of the original while adopting a comedic tone – perhaps in line with Sony’s 21 Jump Street remakes.
The original film centered on a private detective (Roundtree) who was hired to find a missing girl in Harlem. It attracted praise and criticism for its place in the Blaxploitation genre – though films like Shaft seemed to empower black individuals and afford black actors the opportunities to lead movies at a time when that was uncommon, some argued that such titles perpetuated racist stereotypes.
Shaft was last updated in 2000 by John Singleton, with Samuel L Jackson playing the nephew of the original character. It’s unclear whether this new remake will acknowledge that film or function as if it never happened.
Regardless, it’s interesting that New Line is tapping two comedy writers to tackle the flick. Barris’ ABC comedy series Black-ish addresses race in the modern era as it pertains to a black family attempting to honor its heritage while acclimatizing to a mostly white upper-class neighborhood. Meanwhile, Barnow co-created short-lived comedy Mr. Sunshine and wrote episodes of Family Guy, a button-pushing animated sitcom that often targets race, either in the context of off-color punchlines or social critiques. Neither have really worked in the action or detective genres, both of which come into play in Shaft, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see another genre scribe enter the fray to punch up whatever they deliver.