Foxy Brown (1974)
By: Stuart Giesel on May 7, 2012  | 
DVD
Shock | Region 4, NTSC | 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 2.0 | 91 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Jack Hill
Starring: Pam Grier, Antonio Fargas, Peter Brown, Terry Carter
Screenplay: Jack Hill
Country: USA
External Links
IMDB Purchase YouTube
As something of a newbie to the "blaxploitation" genre which was prolific throughout the 70's - I've only seen Shaft ages ago, and Across 110th Street probably qualifies (Tarantino's excellent homage Jackie Brown might, too) - I didn't know quite what to expect when watching Foxy Brown. Sure, I figured there'd be the prerequisite funky theme song, hideous costumes and sleazy dialogue, but what I didn't reckon was how much fun the damn thing would be. Bear in mind, Foxy Brown does contain some stilted acting, lame fights and cringeworthy dialogue, but when the picture is just so unashamedly entertaining you really don't mind. And besides, the magnetism of legendary star Pam Grier is enough for ten films.

The plot is pretty straightforward. An undercover agent (Terry Carter) presumed killed by drug dealers has actually been in hiding for three months, and gets facial reconstruction as part of his reentry into civilisation as Michael Anderson. He happens to be the boyfriend of Foxy Brown (Grier). Unfortunately, Foxy's lowlife brother Link (Antonio Fargas) recognises who he really is even with the facial reconstruction, and he fingers him to the drug dealers in exchange for getting out of the debt he owes them. The dealers kill Anderson in front of Foxy Brown - a bad mistake for them, because Foxy sets off on a one-woman crusade to wipe them off the face of the earth! Let's face it, when Foxy replies to Michael that vigilantism is "as American as apple pie", you know what you're in for.

Foxy Brown
is a strange hybrid of straightforward action mixed with nudity, goofy humour and sobering themes like rape, forced prostitution and drug abuse. Originally intended as a sequel to Coffy (also starring Pam Grier and directed by Jack Hill) called "Burn Coffy Burn", the studio believed there was no money in sequels, so it was altered to be a standalone pic. It ended up becoming one of the most famous and influential blaxploitation films released. It's surprising, actually, that a sequel was never made. I for one would have loved to see Foxy Brown in more adventures - it's refreshing to have a film where a black woman is the hero and dominates over the sleazy scumbags and shitheels of society. I haven't seen Coffy, so I can't say whether Pam Grier's Foxy Brown is similar to her character of Coffy, but if it is then I'll be sure to put Coffy on my must-see list.

Some of the dialogue is golden: "I don't know how to sing, and I don't know how to dance, and I don't know how to preach to no congregation, I'm too small to be a football hero, and I'm too ugly to be elected mayor", "don't pinch the fruit, faggot", and "I got my black belt in bar stools". Brilliant. Some other snippets of dialogue spewed by the bad guys are pretty racist, but nothing on par with the notorious Fight For Your Life, which pretty much set the benchmark for shockingly racist dialogue. There's some bloody violence (with crayon-red blood!), an interracial sex scene, drug use, puerile humour and frequent amounts of nudity - basically, something for everyone. I would assume Foxy Brown was somewhat controversial back in the day.

The cast, aside from Grier, are pretty functional. I found the main baddie, Katherine Wall (Kathryn Loder) to be extremely distracting in all of her scenes, not because she was bad in her role, but simply because she reminded me of one of Steve Pemberton's characters in the BBC comedy series The League of Gentleman. Pauline perhaps? But Pam Grier is simply magnetic every time she shows up. Some of the dialogue she has to spout is pretty lame, but she delivers it with gusto. And some of the costumes she wears leave very little to the imagination, so it's easy to see why she's still considered a sex symbol to this day.

It's hardly Shakespeare - it's the sort of dumb-fun film where a bad guy tries to escape the blades of a moving plane by running directly away from it rather than dodge to one side. But there are so many memorable moments like that: Foxy escaping from the vile clutches of two hideous rednecks out in the middle of nowhere with nothing but a razor blade and a bunch of coat hangers, Link proclaiming the quality of the coffee at a fast food stand in order to compel a couple of cops to hang around so he doesn't get the shit beaten out of him by some drug enforcers (and everyone at the stand orders the same meal!), the fight in the lesbian bar, Foxy being patted down for a concealed weapon and being groped at the same time, a corrupt judge being chastised by Foxy for his tiny junk before being humiliated and beaten by some women of Good Moral Fibre, a nurse slapping a man's erection whilst proclaiming that she'll "have none of that nonsense". The list goes on.

Basically what I'm trying to say is that Foxy Brown is a hell of a good time. You dig?
Video
The video quality is acceptable if hardly striking - colours are strong, contrast is nice, but the picture isn't terribly sharp and there's a bit of grain throughout. If anything, it adds to the exploitative feel of the piece.
Audio
Dialogue is clear and the groovy 70's score works well. Probably the highlight is the funky opening song by Willie Hutch, not as iconic as the Shaft theme, sure, but it sets the tone for the rest of the film well.
Extra Features
The main feature is an audio commentary by writer/director Jack Hill, who provides some good background on the origins of the film and the pressures in shooting with such a limited budget. He also talks about the costumes used in the film and how he feels about working within the blaxploitation genre. Overall it's a good commentary, even though there are some dead spots. There's also the theatrical trailer.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Foxy Brown is a terrific reminder of the type of film you just don't get these days. It's cheap, corny, exploitative and fun as hell. Pam Grier dominates (and is physically stunning) in one of her signature roles. It's a classic in the blaxploitation genre and holds up extremely well in these days of overstuffed CGI wankfests. Strongly recommended.

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