Live by Night
The key question behind Live by Night isn’t so much “Why did they bother?” as “What went wrong?”
The creation of a movie superhero is a tricky business. You're not simply making an action movie; you're creating a mythical character who has to be durable enough to survive maybe half a dozen sequels. That was the case with "Shaft," the incredibly successful movie about a black private eye. The movie was made on a limited budget and there were a lot of rough edges, but John Shaft captured enough imaginations to take a million dollars out of the Roosevelt Theater alone last summer.
Shaft (Richard Roundtree) was sort of a cross between James Bond and Philip Marlowe. He didn't use Bond's science-fiction gadgets, however, and he didn't prowl the seamy underworld of life like Marlowe. He lived in a luxurious Greenwich Village pad and wore expensive leathers and moved with supercool confidence through the world of cops and robbers and the mob.
Now John is back in "Shaft's Big Score," a title that may be a little modest. Not only does Shaft end up with a quarter of a million dollars - he starts out with an interesting score or two. He does so well, in fact, that he doesn't even operate out of his office anymore; he takes calls from clients while he's in bed. They hardly ever wake him up.
The story this time has to do with a battle for control of the numbers game in Harlem. There is a good numbers boss who wants to use his profits to build a child-care clinic, and a bad numbers boss who knocks him off. Then there's the white mafioso who wants to muscle into the action. And there is Shaft, somewhere in the middle, invincible and cunning.