Pam Grier stars in Foxy Brown, the film that would end up cementing Grier's image as the female icon of the Blaxploitation movement.
Reviewed by Charles Conn, Fri., July 6, 2001
D: Jack Hill (1974); with Pam Grier, Antonio Fargas, Sid Haig, Terry Carter, Juanita Brown, Katheryn Loder, Peter Brown.
American International Pictures, eager to capitalize on the burgeoning demand for Blaxploitation films, teamed up Grier with classic B-director Jack Hill, most notably in 1973's Coffy. Grier had previously worked with AIP co-starring in the fun Black Mama, White Mama, as well as such women-in-prison genre classics as The Big Doll House and The Big Bird Cage (both directed by Hill). With Coffy, Grier's persona was posited as the female answer to the title heroes of Shaft and Superfly. After the success of Coffy, Hill returned to direct Grier the following year in Foxy Brown, the film that would end up cementing Grier's image as the female icon of the Blaxploitation movement, both outshining and outlasting Tamara Dobson's Cleopatra Jones. Dobson's awkward kung-fu and drag-queen get-up becomes cartoonish when compared to Grier's no-nonsense, cold-blooded ruthlessness. Foxy Brown (Grier) is curiously motivated by revenge as she's hell-bent on avenging the death of boyfriend and former undercover narc Anderson (Carter), who dies at the hands of drug kingpins, the weird Katherine Wall (Loder) and horny lawyer Steve Elias (Peter Brown). Posing as a high-class prostitute, Foxy is paired with pill-popping Claudia (Juanita Brown), a hauntingly beautiful and tragic mulatto whom Foxy takes to caring for. When Foxy discovers her drinking at a lesbian bar -- where the superbly funky Willie Hutch score can be heard -- you can put your money on a full-out bar brawl. The film picks up more steam as it goes; it surprises with the brutality of Foxy's actions, which are made all the more threatening by the seriousness of Grier's delivery. Hill winds the story to a perfect climax, with Foxy bringing the goods, sporting a sheened, gun-toting afro. When "the party's over," as Brown later announces, we are witnessing hero iconography reminiscent of Bruce Lee. Amid the pantsuits and head wraps, Grier shines in this sometimes-meandering production. She delivers a performance full of conviction and candor. Whether tore up or glammed up, Grier as Brown becomes the ultimate female hero. Rage never looked so good.