Sunday, August 28, 2011

Don't Mess Aroun' With Foxy Brown

She is the meanest chick in town.  No shit.  She really is.  She'll burn you alive.  Shoot you twice in the head.  Cut your penis off and give it to your girlfriend in a pickle jar.  That's just some of the fun that can be found in this 1974 classic of blaxploitation.  Directed by Jack Hill and starring Huggy Bear himself (Antonio Fargas), Pam Grier in the title role, and the always enjoyable Sid Haig, this was originally supposed to be a sequel to Coffy, but American-International Pictures decided it didn't want a sequel for some odd reason.  The film still came out, obviously, but one can't help but wonder what it would've been like if Hill was allowed to go back to the Coffy pot.

Instead, we get Foxy (a.k.a Misty Cotton later in the film), a woman whose Fed boyfriend is gunned down after an identity change.  How did this happen?  Fuckin' Huggy Bear sold him out, and therefore ruined his sister's day.  That's right.  After Foxy saves her ne'er-do-well brother (we all have one), he decides to screw her over to help pay his debt to some people running a prostitution/drug ring disguised as a modeling agency.  (Now they just use Taco Bells for that.)  Foxy decides to go undercover as a high-class hooker and for her troubles gets injected with heroin, raped and beat up a bit.  Disney, it should be noted, is not looking to remake this.

Foxy Brown influenced a lot of movies since then.  (Fans of Superbad will feel right at home in the opening credits.)  This is due to the fact that this was blaxploitation at its peak.  You've got a great soundtrack, poor acting (and some good acting, too), female empowerment to the nth degree, Grier's breasts, and dead white people.  Mainstream Hollywood this was not, and people like Quentin Tarantino understood the power of these films. 

The film, as influential as it is, falls into the same trap that plagues blaxploitation films.  Made with little money, these films tried their best.  Some of the actors weren't up to the script, and the scripts weren't always all that great to begin with.  The only reason these films seemed to get funding is because an underserved audience ate them up, and it was looked at as money in the bank.  The message, however, was the important thing.  It was subversive and at times stereotypical.  It was also a free-for-all where anything and everything could happen.  The audience the films were intended for were rarely disappointed; happy to see stories geared to them finally make it to the big screen. 

It should also be noted that few white women in films were as tough as Foxy at this time.  You didn't get many of them running around putting bullets into people or chopping off a penis.  At least I don't recall Jane Fonda doing that in any way but symbolically.  Grier was the definition of a tough woman, and she made the roles she took believable.  Some would say this is her best film.  I'm not sure I agree with that, but she is really the only reason to watch it.  (Haig, whom I like, is wasted here.  He has a bit role that doesn't have enough meat in it to satisfy.  He relishes it, though.)

They don't make films like this anymore.  Audiences wouldn't tolerate them.  There are films that try, though, but they are homages and nothing more.  This era of film is done, and this stands as one of its highlights.  Any film that can make white men fear for their penis is tops is my book.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I did not receive this film to review, and seeing as I'm too lazy to add links, there's no need to worry about me getting a commission off this one. 

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