Guest Post: A tribute for the late JOHN SINGLETON

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On April 29, 2019 director John Singleton passed away after suffering from stroke. He was only 51 years old.

Singleton had a somewhat successful career in Hollywood. Even though he was the youngest film director ever to have been nominated by the Oscars for his first film BOYZ N’ THE HOOD, his career never reached the heights of some of the more well-known directors today (David Fincher, Quentin Tarantino, Spike Lee and Ang Lee) that started their careers in the late 80s and early 90s. For the last few years before his death, Singleton has been working mostly on TV shows. He’s the creator of one of my current favorite TV shows called SNOWFALL.

As a tribute to his work, I’m listing my favorite films that he directed. In no particular order, here are some of his best work. Just a side-note, I didn’t see two of his films, BABY BOY and ABDUCTION.

Boyz n the Hood (1991)

Before this film came out, not many films dealt with the tough life in the ghetto of Los Angeles. To many outsiders, it was an eye opener of what life is like living in those rough neighborhoods. The film was a critical and commercial success. Not bad for a filmmaker who was only in his early 20s. The performances by Laurence Fishburn and Cuba Gooding Jr. were pretty great.

Shaft (2000)

After doing a few smaller budget films, Singleton decided to jump into a big budget studio film. A sequel to the 70s Blaxploitation films, it didn’t become the franchise starter the studio had hoped. In fact, the film was more well known for its behind the scenes dramas. According to reports, Singleton and his leading man Samuel L. Jackson constantly argue on the set. Singleton also had disagreements with the film’s producer and writer on the tone and script. So basically, it’s the usual nightmare that many young filmmakers would run into in their first big budget film.

The film opened in the summer of 2000, it did okay at the box office. Despite the difficult shoot, Singleton apparently wanted to do a sequel and tried to convince Sam Jackson to reprise the role. But Jackson was not happy with the film and also with the modest box office returns, Paramount didn’t want to invest their money on the sequel.

Rosewood (1997)

This might be one of the most underrated films of the 90s. A film about the horrific lynch mob attack on an African America community in 1923. For anyone who’ve never seen it, I would highly recommend it. It contains great performances by Ving Rhames, Don Cheadle and Jon Voight. When the film came out in 1997, it received mostly positive reviews but it bombed at the box office. Maybe because of this film’s failure at the box office that Singleton decided to jump into doing big budget studio films such as Shaft and Fast Furious 2.

Poetic Justice

A great performance by Janet Jackson and the late Tupac Shakur. I also loved this film’s soundtrack. This is a film I need to revisit soon since I haven’t seen since it came out over 20 years ago.

Higher Learning (1995)

This film’s about race relation in college campus is probably more relevance in today’s world than many would think back in 1994. I haven’t seen this film since I saw it on opening weekend with my friends back in early 90s, so I don’t remember much about it. I do remember that I liked it but some of the stuff that happened in the film were kind of over the top and a bit cliché. This is another one of Singleton’s work that I need to revisit.

Four Brothers

This was Singleton’s last big-budget production film. A kind of strange action thriller that I still didn’t know how it got green lighted by the studio. The film starred Mark Wahlberg playing Mark Wahlberg. It wasn’t bad, just wasn’t that interesting and the action scenes were pretty lackluster.

John Singleton was not one of my favorite directors but he had enough talents that I thought he can make a big comeback. Sadly, we’ll never know if he could but I appreciate his films.

Rest in Peace Mr. Singleton. 


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What are some of YOUR favorite films by John Singleton?

Rental Pick: John Singleton’s SHAFT (2000)

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New York City police detective John Shaft (nephew of the original 1970s detective) goes on a personal mission to make sure the son of a real estate tycoon is brought to justice after a racially-motivated murder.

I’ve been curious about this movie for some time but I forgot that it’s available on Netflix streaming. As my hubby and I were in the mood for an action flick, this was a good a time as any to finally check it out. One thing I noticed right away was how young Samuel L. Jackson looked here, though this was made only a decade and a half ago. He’s basically playing the same tough guy character as Nick Fury and a bunch of other action roles – same snarky attitude and that cocky swagger.

It’s interesting to see him go after some rich SOB Walter Wade Jr. played by Christian Bale, the same year he also plays another rich psychopath in American Psycho and 5 years before he plays an even richer guy Bruce Wayne, but at least he uses his privilege for good in those Batman films. He’s quite convincing as some racist bastard, you really wants to punch his smug face every time he’s on screen. But he’s actually not the most memorable villain in this flick, that’d be Jeffrey Wright who plays a ghetto drug kingpin Peoples Hernandez. It’s amusing to see an African American actor playing a Hispanic man, he’s definitely the movie’s scene stealer here.

The rest of the supporting cast was pretty good. Toni Collette is quite memorable here too as the witness Shaft’s trying to convince to testify and rapper Busta Rhymes provides comic relief as Shaft’s frantic driver. I haven’t seen the original Shaft films, but I’m familiar with Richard Roundtree who had a supporting role as Shaft’s uncle. I also like the fact that they didn’t make the beautiful Vanessa Williams to be just the eye candy factor or damsel in distress, in fact she actually saved Shaft in one key scene.

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The movie itself was pretty entertaining – good pacing, interesting characters and dynamic action scenes. Yet it wasn’t just all about car chases and shootouts, as the story was pretty involving but not overly complicated. John Singleton definitely had style and some of the camera work was pretty cool to watch. It’s also quite violent and there are as many F-bombs flying out as there are bullets, I read on IMDb that there were F-word was used 165 times in this movie, wow! At least the violence wasn’t too gratuitous. The finale also still manages to surprise me, and I remember not having recovered yet from the tense scene between Shaft and Hernandez. Not a bad rental and I’m glad I finally saw this one. I’m actually surprised there isn’t a sequel to this, I’d think that it might’ve been a hit back then.

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Have you seen SHAFT? Well, what did you think?