Foxy Brown


Sep 13, 2008

Plot Outline: Foxy Brown is a young black woman trying to make her way through the seventies. She has plans to get out of the ghetto along with her boyfriend Michael who works for the government in stopping the local gangsters. See, Michael faked his death along the way and has recently been let out of the hospital after facial reconstruction. So now it looks like Foxy has finally got her man and life is looking up. Well, things aren’t going to stay that way and pretty soon the word is out on the street that Michael faked his death, and he is shot to death outside Foxy’s home. Now, an average woman might turn away, being outnumbered and outgunned, but Foxy isn’t an average woman and she’s got revenge on her mind. Bodies fall, guns blast and Pam Grier changes costumes more times than you could shake a stick at!


The Review: As usual with those Wily Rogue Reviewers, they just had to put together some kind of Roundtable Review for February, and more specifically, Valentine’s Day. I’ve done a few of these Roundtable Reviews by now so if you don’t know who the Rogue’s are or why I’m affiliated with them, check out my Near Dark or Toxic Avenger reviews. So, this time around somebody got the bright idea for the perfect Valentine’s Day film genre to focus on, that’s right, films with women who have large breasts in the lead. Nothing says true love quite like a busty woman, am I right? Maybe not. Anyway, being that my supply of 90s era straight-to-video b-movies featuring buxom leading ladies isn’t exactly plentiful (the fact that I have no such supply figures into things somehow I’m sure), I was forced to be resourceful in my choice of a film to review. So, I looked over what I had and came upon one name: Pam Grier. My first pick was Emmanuele and the Last Cannibals, but I was informed that Laura Gemser’s chest doesn’t quite measure up (boy, that’s a cheesy joke). So after being reminded of Pam Grier’s lovely and sizable bust, my choice was immediate. Foxy Brown is probably one of my favorite blaxploitation films ever, and is definitely my favorite Pam Grier contribution to the genre. I could have chose to go with Coffy if I wanted to, and it might have been even more fitting for the Roundtable at hand because of the many times Pam actually undresses in that film, but frankly I find Foxy to be the more entertaining film. It’s just more fun to sit down and watch in my opinion, and it capitalizes on all the things I happen to enjoy about the genre. It’s all very simple, from the attitude to the dialogue, everything in the film was made to entertain the audience and I can’t help but feel a large amount of respect for the film for doing just that. It may have it’s fair share of bad acting and it may not be serious ‘film’, but it’s such an easy movie to just sit back and relax with. It’s the opposite of pretension, and in this day and age relics like this should be held to the highest degree of affection by all who watch them. Foxy Brown essentially defines an era while watching it, and although you may find films with similar plots or attitudes, rarely will you find one done better.

I once described The Warriors as a film with dialogue that most screenwriters would be afraid to use these days because it’s too ‘cool’, and I think Foxy Brown also fits into the same category. It’s not just that the lines are memorable, it’s that they have a special quality to them that reaches bounds beyond what someone might say in actual life. Jack Hill, who is both a legend of the 70s and a legend within the Blaxploitation genre, seemed to know particularly what he was going for with the film and in my opinion got the best Pam Grier performance I have seen outside of Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown. A lot of the people I talk to, or read reviews from, seem to be far more fans of Coffy the earlier Pam Grier/Jack Hill teamup. Although I certainly respect the opinion, but maybe it was that Foxy Brown was my first Pam Grier film (although I would like to hope I’m above that by this stage of my reviewing ‘career’), I just find Foxy to be far more worthy and cinematic than the also brilliant Coffy. Foxy Brown for me almost shatters the exploitation barriers you might expect. It’s an action film, a gritty urban drama as well as a groovy exploitation flick. Coffy had more violence and more nudity, but I wasn’t rapped up in the story like I was with Foxy, and I think that says quite a bit about the film when you’re talking Blaxploitation. Although I would have to award Coffy extra points for featuring more screen time with the amazing Sid Heig. I’m not oblivious to how Foxy Brown may play to today’s audiences, or those not quite as in love with it as myself. The acting for the most part is rather amateurish and there are genuine comedic moments that obviously weren’t intended to be funny, but it comes with the territory with low budget exploitation. Foxy Brown is about as well rounded as an exploitation film could possibly be in my opinion. It has the memorable characters, dialogue and the amazing charisma of a great cast. The story is simplistic, maybe even cut and paste, but the film makes it work. It’s a simple us vs. them story, and the film sells it from the very beginning. It causes you to get involved with the story, at least that’s what it does for me. The film is pleasing to watch is the only way I can describe what is that makes Foxy so special without getting into specifics. Even when the film is violent, gritty and downright mean, it’s still all part of one story and we know by the end the good guys are going to win.

Jack Hill is a director I feel ashamed not to have seen a lot of his films. At the moment it’s only two or so films. The two mentioned Pam Grier films actually. He’s essentially a legend in the b-movie world and I completely understand that. You may not find a lot of dazzling visuals in Foxy brown, but you will find a well told story with many dynamics working for it throughout the film. Really it’s not the cinematography that shines through the celluloid with Foxy, it’s more the set design and wardrobe. From the amazing mansion like home Katherine Wall has, with the two story balcony that peers into the dressing room, or the ‘ranch’ where two redneck’s spend their days dividing up dope. The sets on such a low budget film really shouldn’t be so memorable, but they obviously are. And as for the wardrobe, just look at the complex and sexy dresses Pam Grier somehow slips into within every couple of scenes. Not only does she look fantastic, but the clothing is so out of this world that it almost doesn’t even look like something from the seventies. Well, almost. Pam Grier herself never shined quite as bright than here. Not only is she super-bad as the theme song tends to remind you, but she also comes off onscreen as sweet yet tough as nails. It’s hard to describe really, she just has that ‘star power’ you hear people talk about. Although at this point in her career she didn’t really seem to have her craft quite honed, but the film really does rely on her performance more than anything. Unlike Coffy where the film seemed to be packed full of titillation and cheesecake, the only time where you even get to see Pam Grier partially nude in Foxy is during one of the most unflattering and unattractive sequences in the film. For those of you who have watched it, I would like to think you could remember. It’s as if the filmmakers were purposefully trying to tease the audience, if you came here expecting to see Pam Grier sexing things up, perhaps you went to the wrong film. Pam puts in her best efforts, and although I haven’t seen but a portion of the films she made in the seventies (yes, I’m still a newb), I totally believed in her character. She may have a few bad moments here and there, but even when she’s off she’s on. I can’t quite explain what it is about her charm as an actress, but you either get it or you don’t. The rest of the cast are as top-notch as she was, although as I pointed out, Sid Haig sadly only shows up in a small part during the last thirty minutes of the film. The last thirty also happens to be the most interesting and brilliant moments of the film, coincidence? Well, maybe. Anyway, the brilliant Antonio Fargas shows up as Foxy’s sister and actually gets the line of the movie, the surprisingly popular “That’s my sister, and she’s a whole lotta woman”. That line may actually be more popular than the film it’s self. Antonio basically plays a scumbag, but he does it with class what can I say. The man is lovable no matter how big a rat he is in the film, he’s just that kind of person. The true villains of the film, or as I like to call them “the honkeys” are also quite entertaining. Especially Peter Brown as Steve Elias, the man-servant to Katherine Wall. He probably puts in the best performance of the film, sure he may not be called on to do much, but the guy is menacing you can give him that much credit. He’s your average Honkey villain, but since he plays second fiddle to a rich woman who seems to love him (although he obviously is just stringing her along) makes him that much more humorous to watch. He’s a Himbo Honkey. Katherine Wall herself is the evil rich empress of the empire, and although her character comes off a bit too snobby at times to be the head of such a drug ring, she’s still a classic Honkey villain. There’s really not a whole lot of other actors that demand your attention during the film, but they’ll likely be more of what you would expect. It’s no really an actor’s kind of movie, but for some reason that’s part of what draws me to the film.

This one is really going to be up to the audience to decide. Some people like it, some people love it and there are obviously that portion of people who moderately hate it, but I’ve got to be honest and I can’t help but be in love with both Foxy Brown and Pam Grier. It’s a fun film if nothing else and should be taken as nothing more than fluff, but who ever said that should be a bad thing? If you’re going to watch one Pam Grier film from her cult days, I say go with Foxy. Sure, Coffy may get more attention from the fanboys, but if you at least moderately dig Foxy Brown then there’s a good chance you’ll dig her other films as well.

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