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Lee Tergesen plays a cop named Luger in this remake of the 1971 blaxploitation classic. 

Samuel L. Jackson plays John Shaft, nephew of the original's John Shaft (Richard Roundtree, who has a cameo in this film.)

Of Lee's character, renowned movie critic Roger Ebert noted: "Always look twice at a cop named Luger."

Another reviewer examined Lee's part a little more in-depth:

"The movie takes a very unexpected risk with the character Luger, a bigoted police officer. I thought Luger was being built up as the prototypical racist cop, but was delighted when the movie totally subverted my assumptions. Luger is not made out to be a nice or admirable character, of course, but I found it interesting that [Screenplay writer Richard] Price chose to acknowledge a few shades of gray in the midst of the usual racists-bad black-and-white palette. Lee Tergesen manages to find just the right balance in the role."

In an August 2001 article in Metal Rules magazine, Lee and the interviewer played down the "racist-but-helpful" characterization of Luger. Lee described the part:

"I play Detective Luger. He's in Shaft's narco squad and initially he and Shaft don't see eye-to-eye and they lock heads a couple of times. But when it comes down to it and Shaft needs someone he can trust, he turns to Luger and in that he begins to see that even although the differences are there, there are some similarities."

Thanks go to Rose for her help with the following synopsis:

Lee's first appearance on screen comes about 14 minutes into the movie as he and a group of cops, including John Shaft, are about to bust into the apartment of a drug dealer. He’s using some sort of device that requires a hand pump and everyone is mad at him that he can’t seem to get it done. 

But it does get done (thanks to one of the suspects unwittingly opening the door). About six minutes and a stunt-packed chase scene later, the cops have the perps in handcuffs on the street, ready to load into a police van.

Lee's next scene is about 5 minutes later, set in the police station. Luger is hauling in one suspect, who objects to the way Luger is handling him. Luger shoves him, tells him "Will you shut the f--- up, cornbread." Shaft confronts Luger: "Yo, Luger. What's up with the cornbread?" Luger asks him what the problem is. "Nazis with badges, that's my problem," Shaft says. Luger tells him to lighten up -- a comment Shaft doesn't appreciate. Their exchange escalates into a very angry confrontation, complete with threats of ass-kicking.

Luger next has a brief appearance when Shaft brings in a rich-boy murder suspect, Walter Wade Jr. (played by Christian Bale) who had eluded the police previously. Luger stands with a group of detectives on a second floor balcony as they applauding Shaft's arrival with the suspect.

Later, Luger is present in court when Wade has his bail hearing. The judge’s lenient decision angers Shaft, and he storms out of the courthouse. His fellow detectives, including Luger, follow in his wake, trying to talk him out of doing something rash. Shaft unexpectedly pulls his gun when the suspect appears outside.

Shaft quits. Wade jumps bail. Two years later, Shaft strikes out on his own to find a witness and gather more evidence for the case against the Wade. Along the way, he gets help from his former colleagues in the NYPD.

That includes Luger. The last time Lee appears is about an hour into the movie, when he and Shaft pull an off-duty, off-the-record "robbery" of their nemesis. Luger, with a ski mask over his face, has Wade at gunpoint and hollers: "Freeze mo-fo, before I bust a cap in your dome!" This convinces Wade to give up his duffel bag, full of $42,000 in dirty money.

Shaft and Luger climb into a car, and in this scene, unlike their earlier confrontation, the two clearly have respect for each other. In parting, Shaft calls Luger a cracker and Luger makes a crack about cornbread, but they both laugh about it, parting on good terms.


Movie Gallery

Arguing with Shaft
With other detectives
At the courthouse
Trying to calm Shaft
Shaft and Luger
In the car

(Screen caps above
courtesy of Rose)

More gallery
(25 screen caps by


Related Links


Available on DVD

Roger Ebert review

Killer Movies review

Rotten Tomatoes reviews