HE WAS A MAN WHO NEVER heard the word “No,” during his professional role. I witnessed it for myself. During the summer I had a job at a company that was family owned. The man who hired me was the son of the owner, a man who had died several years prior. This company was the only job the son had done; he started helping out there during his elementary school years. I did not have much interaction with him, even though he was always around. However, I did see how the employees acted around him; some of them were even relatives of his. What became apparent to me was everyone’s reluctance to tell the son something negative or not aligned to his own way of thinking. Even if the person knew it was not in the company’s best interests, they would still not disagree with the son. For full disclosure, I will say the son was not the nicest man to work for; so, maybe some employees did not care about the company or its owner. I could only assume they did not need the job as much as I did. Again, I was only working there during the summer months before school started up again. THAT EXPERIENCE TURNED OUT TO BE quite helpful in my job searches. After I got out of college I applied at a local company that made handbags. During the interview process I discovered the company was being run by a child of the owner. I cannot remember if it was a son, daughter or grandchild. When I found this out it made sense to me because there was an extremely expensive car in the parking lot with vanity plates. I knew right at that moment that the car was owned by the owner’s child. Putting two and two together, I declined the offer they made me; I did not want to get involved with a company that had such a chain of command hierarchy. It was a good thing because a couple of years later I discovered the company had to file for bankruptcy. I never found out the details of it, but I was convinced part of the reason was having the son run the business. Now, I do not want to slight all family owned companies; I know of several that have remained successful from generation to generation. But, I will say if children of the owner are not raised in a reality-based environment, where they must work to get ahead and deal with being told “no,” then I feel the company will never succeed. See how this plays out in this crime action, comedy movie. THOUGH HIS FATHER HAD NO INVOLVEMENT with his upbringing JJ, played by Jessie T. Usher (Almost Christmas, Independence Day: Resurgence), decided to seek out his Dad for help in the mysterious death of a close friend. It would bring a whole new meaning to the saying, “Blood is thicker than water.” With Samuel L. Jackson (The Avengers franchise, Snakes on a Plane) as John Shaft, Richard Roundtree (What Men Want, Brick) as John Shaft Sr., Regina Hall (Girls Trip, The Hate U Give) as Maya Babanikos and Alexandra Shipp (Straight Outta Compton; Love, Simon) as Sasha Arias; this film could have been both fun and exciting. Instead it was vulgar and unnecessary. If the writers wanted to move the original story forward, they could have done it without the profanity laced dialog and unimaginative scenarios. Everything was obvious and easy to figure out; I quickly got tired while watching this stale story. I left the movie theater with only one wish: that none of the characters in the story ever procreate.
1 ½ stars
Memories of past relationships never completely leave us; they float in the cove of one’s heart. For whatever reason the relationship ended, even to the point of hostile anger; those memories may sink below the surface of emotional waters, but they eventually rise up. It could happen when walking by the favorite restaurant you both liked or hearing a song that still makes your heart skip as you remembered how the two of you danced together. No matter how hard one tries, these memories never go away; their hard edges only soften from the emotional pull through the years. I have seen and been a part of several close relationships and have noticed this emotional connection. It will remain through life and beyond. With this knowledge I understood the motivation to the story in this dramatic mystery movie. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Don Jon, Looper) played Brendan, a high schooler who discovered his ex-girlfriend dead in a sewage canal. If he wanted to find out what happened to her, Brendan would have to find a way to navigate between the different cliques of the student body. What he discovered took him beyond the high school walls. It took me a little time to get into the rhythm of the dialog in this film festival winner, mainly because it was an unfamiliar way of talking for me. Possibly it was a generational thing, but I got used to it and was able to finally focus in on the performances and story. Joseph Gordon-Levitt already has done a variety of characters, each one well; so his role here was another solid and believable performance with a touch of teenage angst and a dash of bravado. Though he had a small role, I enjoyed seeing Richard Roundtree (Shaft, Collar) play Assistant Vice Principal Gary Trueman. The cast of characters was varied with some distinct personalities such as Lukas Haas (Witness, Inception) as The Pin and Noah Fleiss (Taking Chance, Joe the King) as Tugger. I thought part of the movie was repetitive; but with the unusual film angles and truthfully the characters’ swagger, I did not find it too much of a distraction. Adding in the crisp direction, I found myself drawn into the story. Now I still have all my memories from my high school years, even the bad ones; but I have to say, I am glad my high school was not like the one in this good film. There were a couple of brief scenes where blood was shown.
3 stars — DVD