Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Thursday, March 16, 2017


Foxy Brown” is the reason why I know who Pam Grier is. I'm not sure why but it seems to be her most well known film. Maybe it's because Tarantino pay homage to the title with “Jackie Brown.” Maybe “Foxy Brown” is even more indicative of the 1970s. Whatever the reason, this is the film I sought out when I became interested in Grier's career. The film was originally conceived as a sequel to “Coffy,” entitled “Burn, Coffy, Burn!” Jack Hill was even talked into returning. At the last minute, A.I.P. decided the film's story should stand alone, though the connective fibers to “Coffy” are still apparent. “Foxy Brown” would be another hit, continuing to establish Pam Grier as an icon of her time.

Foxy Brown is a whole lotta woman but her boyfriend, a government agent who has recently undergone plastic surgery, can keep up with her. Thanks to the incompetence of Foxy's drug dealing brother, that boyfriend is gunned down by gangsters. This pisses Foxy off. She investigates the crime ring, going undercover as a prostitute in one of their brothel. Brown's deception is soon uncovered and the crime bosses punish Foxy, shipping her off to the south of the border and attempting to hook her on drugs. But Foxy Brown is harder to get rid of then that.

Jack Hill's winning combination of exploitation and social commentary continues in “Foxy Brown.” Instead of attacking the drug industry, this time Pam Grier takes on the sex trade. Early on, Brown befriends a group of black militants who are actively fighting what they call “new slavery:” Girls being hooked on drugs and sold into prostitution. In contrast to the highly romanticized portrayal in “The Mack” and Hill's own “Coffy,” pimps are shown here as victimizers. The villains in “Foxy Brown” are monsters that rape women, spiritually and physically. The main villains are white, of course, and their clients are depicted as judges and lawyers. In other words, powerful white men are willing cogs in a machine of hideous repression. “Foxy Brown” even has its main character yelling directly at the camera, condemning anyone who would take advantage of somebody's daughter or sister.

As in “Coffy,” Hill's goals as a social commentator and an exploitation filmmaker are sometimes at odds with each other. “Foxy Brown” isn't as much fun as the director's first collaboration with Pam Grier. It has a more self-consciously sleazy atmosphere. There are giddy, sexy scenes. Such as Foxy and another escort humiliating the racist judge they've been sent to service. Yet many of the film's scenes verge on ugly. After being found out, Foxy is shipped out to a shack in the desert. She's stripped, whipped, assaulted, injected, and tied up. Naturally, the camera still lingers on Grier's nude body, even when she is imperiled. Later on, the bad guys corner Foxy's brother in his apartment. They coldly assassinate him and his naked girlfriend. It's a moment that is brutal and gory. It's a little too grotesque to provide the kind of seedy thrills exploitation movies usually provide.

Then again, there might be a wider point to “Foxy Brown's” graphic depiction of the sex trade. “Coffy” ended with a shotgun castration, the philandering asshole getting his balls blown off. The quasi-sequel takes this even further. Foxy watches coldly as she commands a black militant to cut off the male villain's testicles. She then presents the severed package in a pickle jar to the guy's girlfriend and partner-in-crime. This blaxploitation flick doesn't just presents a black hero taking on the white establishment. Its hero's status as a woman is lingered on. The system she's battling is presented as explicitly male. If the film wasn't such a down and dirty grindhouse movie, you might consider it as a serious feminist statement. Considering Pam Grier – always powerful, always fiery, always resourceful – is at the center, you do that anyway.

Still, Jack Hill knows how to make an explosive action movie on a low budget. The brawls in “Foxy Brown” are gritty and in-your-face. After swinging a bar stool into a butch lesbian, Foxy eggs the entire gay bar into a fight. Soon afterwards, she's tossing garbage cans into goons' faces. The scene where Foxy escapes from the rape shack literally goes up in flames, Foxy improvising an explosive device. In a likely attempt to one-up “Coffy's” conclusion, this film features Pam Grier driving an airplane through a building. Though only after she chops up an obvious dummy with the propellers. For extra bonus points, the last scene throws a few head shots in. There's nothing quite like “Coffy's” opening shotgun murder but the action is still pretty tight.

“Foxy Brown's” status as Pam Grier's most famous movie is apparent in how many attempts have been made to remake it. A remake starring Halle Berry was briefly considered around 2003. More recently, a Hulu series starring Meagan Good has been announced. I have no idea how a film so distinctly beholden to the seventies as “Foxy Brown” would be updated, much less stretched into an on-going series. I guess we'll find out. The film isn't as purely entertaining or fantastically assembled as “Coffy.” The tonal unevenness is a serious problem. Having said that, Pam Grier kicking ass still has a lot of value, as does the funky soundtrack and a collection of memorable scenes. [7/10]

[X] Afros or Sideburns
[X] Brothels or Pimps
[] Churches or Pastors
[X] Funky Soundtrack
[X] Homophobic Caricatures
[X] Inner-City Setting
[] Night Club Act
[X] Plot Involving Drugs or Organized Crime
[X] Racist Authority Figures
[X] Sticking It to the Man
[X] Sweet Love Makin'
[X] Use of Street Slang

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