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John Shaft's back in town and he's some mean cat, brother.

Mention Isaac Hayes and that immortal "Shaft" theme fills your head with images of flares and streetwise uptown cool quicker than you can say Richard Roundtree. Actually, it's hard to say Richard Roundtree without it sounding like a major chocolate outfit, but who gives a shit, baby? John Shaft's back in town and he's some mean cat, brother. Actually, he's Shaft's nephew and he's played by Samuel L Jackson, who looks as sleek and ready to rumble in a long black leather coat as his dear old uncle did twenty-nine summers ago.

This kind of brutality isn't what they teach you in Sunday school

So what've the dude and his nephew been doing since 1971? They've been watching Dirty Harry movies &endash; all of 'em. See how Shaft Jr deals with a street kid who's been bullying the son of one of his ladies. This kind of brutality isn't what they teach you in Sunday school-no way.

....starts off just like any old Kojak episode

Co-written and directed by John Singleton of Boyz N the Hood megafame, the new Shaft (18) starts off just like any old Kojak episode, with our hero tackling a murder with racial overtones. The chief suspect is Walter Wade (Christian Bale), son of a disgustingly wealthy property developer. There's a witness, a terrified barmaid (Toni Collette) with a splash of blood on her cheek. She disappears in the flick of Shaft's black Armani duster. He's none too pleased, but he has the contacts and he has the staying power to sort out this little problem and anything else The Big Apple throws his way.

The guy's almost pure evil......

The plot's an excuse to see Jackson flex his pecs like his legendary predecessor, who's on hand to offer advice as Jr tangles with one mean sonofabitch Dominican drug lord, Peoples Hernandez (Jeffrey Wright, in a superb performance which steals the film). The guy's almost pure evil, but there's a hint that he's trapped by greed and materialism and the merest pinch of sympathy for the character.

Shaft does it in full view....

Shaft mark two is as much a charmer with the ladies as the old man was, and he throws away his badge with even more of a flourish than Harry Callahan did in San Francisco. Shaft embeds his shield in the immaculate oak panelling next to a judge's ear. Dirty Harry threw his badge into a stinking quarry pit, in private. Shaft does it in full view and takes on the establishment as much as the criminals.

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Remember Lock, Stock and 2 Smoking Barrels?

Remember Lock, Stock and 2 Smoking Barrels? If not, you should have your knuckles crunched with a pistol butt. The brains behind one of the Brit film industry's biggest and most violent hits was Guy Ritchie, now "Mr" Madonna and the writer/director of the follow-up.

If you liked Lock, Stock, then Snatch (18) is just for you. More of a remake than a sequel, and full of flashy, commercial-style cutting, it's briskly entertaining, packed with snappy, over-the-top dialogue and the craziest bunch of underworld characters since, well, Lock, StockŠ

....a bigger than average diamond....

Diamond thief Franky Four Fingers (Benicio del Toro) is doing a routine courier job for his boss Ari (Dennis Farina). In London en route to New York to deliver a bigger than average diamond, he can't resist a bet on an illegal boxing match. Of course, he doesn't suspect Boris "The Blade" has set him up. Not until he's waylaid at the bookies by a couple of pawnshop owners and their appallingly overweight getaway driver, he doesn'tŠ

Ari's not too happy to hear of Franky's little problem, so he pops over to the Smoke to hire local legend "Bullet Tooth" Tony (Vinnie Jones) to find both the courier and the not especially tiny rock.

...more twists than a lorryload of Moldavian corkscrews...

The plot has more twists than a lorryload of Moldavian corkscrews and a mix of US and British acting talent to take your breath away. Farina, so brilliant in Get Shorty, takes the American honours, with the homegrown players swept off the board by Alan Ford, who plays Bricktop, the utterly ruthless boxing promoter and pig farm owner whose novice fighter is pounded flat by Irish gypsy Mickey O'Neill (Brad Pitt, doing, faultlessly, a weird Romany accent).

.....go see Ritchie's mad, balls-out movie.

Don't worry about the plot. Just enjoy the mayhem as spotless Jaguars are smashed to scrap and bareknuckle fights pulp faces even harder than DeNiro/La Motta did in Raging Bull. Oh, and did you ever wonder how to get rid of those awkward dead bodies? Bricktop has the answer. First, find yourself a yard full of hungry pigs. For the full spec, go see Ritchie's mad, balls-out movie.


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