With titles like “The Perfection” and “Shaft,” filmmakers are almost begging critics, bloggers and social media ne’er-do-wells to make a wide variety of puns regarding movie quality. The good news is, while the new psychological thriller “The Perfection” isn’t perfect, it’s pretty damn entertaining—especially for folks who love good, schlocky “so bad it’s good” filmmaking. Audiences won’t get “the shaft” from the redundantly titled but amusing action comedy starring Samuel L. Jackson either.
“The Perfection” is a movie that attempts to be very smart but excels only when it’s being very dumb. The entire movie (available on Netflix) is based on establishing setups and making the audience think one thing is happening, only to try and donkey punch the expectations later. It’s twistier than Red Vines and fizzier than a Mister Pibb. I’m guessing the vast majority who watch the film will see every plot twist coming a mile away. I suppose folks who look at their phones the entire time might be surprised—but only because more dedication is given to whether or not an Instagram photo deserves a like.
Charlotte (Allison Williams) is a former cello protégé who has traveled to Shanghai (probably for production tax credits) to meet her former mentor (Stephen Weber). She meets another cellist, Lizzie (Logan Browning), who has achieved the fame and success she once craved. The two meet and instead of a rivalry forming, they become fast friends and faster lovers. The first 15 minutes or so give off a strong “Black Swan” vibe, but the movie changes gears three or four more times in an attempt to keep the audience guessing.
There are elements of Korean horror, ‘80s-era sex thrillers and independent cinema being not terribly navigated by the director, Richard Shepard. He creates an interesting, over-the-top cinematic world for melodramatic characters to inhabit. Weber gloriously munches scenery in the role of a flamboyant villain and by far is the highlight of this art-house schlock scenario. I was laughing more than I thought, given the pitch-black plot, but I can’t say I didn’t enjoy myself.
The same can be said of the latest “Shaft”; producers have dusted off Samuel L. Jackson for another go at the iconic action hero. The entire concept of “Shaft” is incredibly dated and director Tim Story decides to have some fun with the concept of a Jurassic private dick living in modern America’s more self-aware social setting. It turns out Shaft has a son. He’s gone from “bad mother fucker” to absentee father. His son, JJ (Jessie Usher), is a chip off the old Shaft, who grew up to become an FBI analyst. He’s intelligent and driven but lacks the street smarts that made his father an uptown legend.
When a friend dies suspiciously, JJ begins to investigate a group of military vets who may be up to no good. He quickly realizes he’s in over his head and decides to reach out to big poppa for some desperately needed ass-kicking assistance.
The plot serves as an excuse to get a father and son together and exploit their generational differences—and the overall ludicrousness of a character like Shaft in 2019. Fortunately, it all kind of works. Watching senior citizen Shaft still doing his bad-ass routine produced consistent laughs. Jackson is still a delight to watch on screen, especially when allowed to go full-tilt. He’s fantastic as a righteous relic who feels woefully out of place in a modern setting, as well as modern cinema. There was a time when a character like Shaft was celebrated for his smooth moves, vigilante mindset and voracious libido. Today’s lens exposes Shaft’s inherent character flaws.
Sure, the whole “estranged father and son” angle feels forced, and the bad guys feel like a throwaway plot from an unreleased Jack Reacher book, but Jackson and company end up saving the day with loads of personality and old-school comedy that, like “Shaft,” is a throwback to a different time.