Foxy Brown

1974, Movie, R, 91 mins

Review

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Whereas JACKIE BROWN (1997) is revisionist blaxploitation about an older, wiser, more sophisticated Pam Grier outwitting her foes (with more than a passing nod to the plot and ambiance of SUPERFLY, 1972), its little sibling FOXY BROWN is about a younger, feistier, more bloodthirsty Pam Grier simply stomping her enemies into the dirt. The unapologetically exploitative proceedings take a turn for the disturbingly nasty, but manage to generate an undeniable adrenaline rush.

Policeman Michael Anderson (Terry Carter) has just received a new face and new identity after a stint undercover in the local drug racket. Preparing for a trip with his girlfriend Foxy Brown (Pam Grier), he is recognized by Foxy's brother, Link (Antonio Fargas), who is himself being pursued by thugs for defaulting to a loanshark. Seeing his way out of debt, Link fingers Anderson to the drug dealers, and Anderson is shot.

Swearing vengeance, Foxy joins the stable of prostitutes run by Katherine Wall (Kathryn Loder), moll to druglord Steve Elias (Peter Brown). After sabotaging the mobsters' relationship with a local judge, Foxy is caught, shot full of heroin, raped, and tortured in a remote shack by two white-trash employees of the gang. She manages to kill both and escape, making her way to friends in a neighborhood vigilante committee.

Druglord Elias has meanwhile arranged a delivery of dope from Mexico. Foxy seduces the pilot (Sid Haig) of the private plane and takes control at the rendezvous point, killing most of the gang and capturing Elias with the help of the vigilantes. Showing up at Katherine's afterward, Foxy hands over a pickle jar containing Elias's eviscerated genitals.

The plot is largely an inflated rehash of the previous year's COFFY, and indeed, FOXY BROWN started life as a sequel to the Pam Grier hit. The earlier film had its heroine interrogate a lesbian and then flee when the woman's butch lover comes home and starts tossing furniture; this one has a scene in a lesbian bar, which degenerates into an all-out brawling catfight. In COFFY, one of the bad guys is splattered head-on across the grill of the heroine's car; here one of the heavies is turned to hamburger by her plane's propellor. In both films Grier joins the drug-dealers'stable of whores, only to be captured, drugged, and assaulted. But where COFFY had an exhilarating sense of fun underlying the mayhem, FOXY BROWN is a darker, more mean-spirited picture. Rather than treating Foxy's travails as a setup for the inevitable vengeance, it seems to revel in her degradation. Instead of outwitting the criminals and circumventing the drugging and rape as in the prior film, she suffers both, and though the camera doesn't linger on the details, the sequence casts an unpleasant pall over the picture nonetheless. Presumably the idea was to give the viewer cause to cheer all the harder at the criminals' comeuppance, but instead it just makes for a more tawdry and prurient film that never achieves the dizzying heights of its predecessor. The sense of humor and fun is slight, and poorly integrated into the story; e.g., the appearance of Sid Haig (also in both COFFY and JACKIE BROWN) in bushy black hair and beard, looking like a silent movie villain or a hip Quaker.

Writer-director Jack Hill makes no secret of his loathing for the film. Having turned a huge profit with COFFY, he found himself saddled with different, less congenial producers who insisted on the ending, which Hill despised. FOXY BROWN was Hill's fourth and last film with Grier, who does an admirable job of appearing tough, self-confident, and assertive despite the abuse. She's always eminently watchable, whether dancing in the psychedelic go-go-cum-James Bond credit sequence or bruised and tied topless to a bed, maneuvering a razor blade with her tongue and lips to cut herself free. (Graphic violence, extensive nudity, sexual situations, substance abuse, extreme profanity.) leave a comment

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