Cinema: Mr. Wrong Is Mr. Wright

A dazzling breakthrough makes for a killer villain

Jeffrey Wright makes quite an entrance in Shaft. He arrives with a phalanx of lackeys and junkyard dogs, an ice pick in his pocket and a trash-talking mouth aimed point-blank at Samuel L. Jackson. It's the kind of grand, self-important entrance you haven't seen since Liberace stopped making TV specials. And for the rest of the movie, Wright lives up to that moment with his broadly drawn, carefully shaded performance as Peoples Hernandez, a drug kingpin and the first great movie villain of this millennium.

"He's representative of something I want to comment on," says Wright, 34, "a self-absorption and a...

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