Why is this the most well known Jack Hill/Pam Grier movie? Is it because of its name being a clear influence on Tarantino’s Jackie Brown? Is it because of the admittedly brilliant opening credit sequence?
Look, this isn’t a bad movie by any stretch – but compared to Hill’s previous three blaxploitation movies (ESPECIALLY Coffy!) it was really a bit lackluster.
The things that are good about all of Hill’s blaxploitation films are still good here – great music, Sid Hague, a more intelligent social commentary hidden within the subtext that a movie like this really needed, fun action set-pieces (even if the fight choreography in these movies has always been weak) and, of course, Pam fucking Grier.
Pam Grier’s characters, particularly Foxy Brown and Coffy are really perfect examples of how to hit that balance of smart, sexy and badass, without causing audience members to roll their eyes in disbelief every few seconds.
For a start, she isn’t some martial arts expert for no reason, she doesn’t have abnormal strength for a woman of her build, and she is hardly unbreakable. Generally speaking, when a couple of guys attack her, she will struggle or outright lose – but she ends up ultimately winning because she’s smart and level headed.
She uses her sexuality to get what she wants but, even in those moments, she never attempts to appear air-headed. She knows that the people she’s dealing with aren’t the sort of person to go easy on a ditsy character. Her approach is, “I’m sexy, and you can make money from that – but it’ll be on my terms.”
The times where she does come across as an airhead is when attempting to trick people who are obviously far stupider than the gang leaders she’s out to get.
Her lack of brute strength or fighting prowess is actually something that brings not only realism, but a sense of excitement to these movies – because she has to think her way out of a problem, rather than just fight her way out.
All these elements are present in this movie, as with previous efforts. However, this movie’s biggest drawback is that it’s… kinda fucking boring.
Coffy got going straight away – to the point that she’s already on her revenge mission by the time the movie starts. This film takes more time setting it up, which would be fine, but it doesn’t really offer the audience anything to make that setup interesting. The opening action sequence with the car is embarrassingly bad, and its awkward attempts at humour really fall flat. Foxy’s brother is such a pointless addition to the film that really adds nothing of merit, and the villains are just kinda stock villains. They do nothing to really make you hate them, save for the two rapist drug dealers at the ranch – but having characters rape someone is a pretty lazy way of making the audience hate them, because it’s just too easy.
Some of the set-pieces are really fun, especially the escape scene in the ranch, and the piece near the end. However, the barroom brawl (as much as I have to give the movie credit for being the only film I can think of that has a bar fight in a lesbian only bar) was really tacked on and could’ve been cut from the movie with little effect on anything. This wouldn’t bother me if this was a Jim Kelly film, but as I mentioned before – the fight choreography in these films is pretty bad.
This film is so similar to Coffy in so many ways, so it’s hard not to draw comparisons and, really, that’s this film’s biggest problem: it’s never going to be as good as Coffy.
As good as this film is (and it really is), and despite my 8 out of 10 rating, I don’t really know how strongly I can recommend this film – when I could just recommend watching Coffy.
So watch Coffy. That’s a 10/10 for me. Then, if you get curious, check this one out. It’s not as good, but you’ll still have fun with it.