BBFC Classification: 18
Director: Jack Hill
Starring: Pam Grier, Antonio Fargas, Peter Brown, Sid Haig, Terry Carter, Fred Lerner, Juanita Brown
You’ve gota love the 1970s; you look at films that get released today by the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Rob Zombie, etc. and the influence of that decade is undeniably the driving force of most of their output, and it’s films like Jack Hill’s 1974 feature Foxy Brown that have become almost semi-legendary thanks to the appraisal of said directors.
Seeking revenge for the murder of her government agent boyfriend Michael (Terry Carter – Battlestar Galactica), Foxy Brown (Pam Grier – Jackie Brown/Coffy) joins the modelling (i.e. escort) agency run as a front by ruthless criminal Miss Katherine (Kathryn Loder – The Big Doll House) and begins to take down the gang from the inside, culminating in a brutal act of vengeance that seems only fitting considering what Foxy has to go through.
Now, it goes without saying that Pam Grier is a fine looking woman and the focal point of Foxy Brown, and coming a year after her debut lead in Jack Hill’s Coffy Grier was riding high on a wave of popularity, which is handy because, despite being more of the same on the surface, Foxy Brown is definitely the lesser of the two films. Whilst the plot is basically the same – woman seeks revenge on gangsters/drug dealers who hurt her loved ones – and so are the characters, Foxy Brown is a little less engaging than Coffy, with stilted dialogue delivered, mainly, pretty badly. Grier herself is fine and Antonio Fargas as Foxy’s brother Link is the same fun presence he would go on to perfect in Starsky & Hutch but the rest of the cast are all wooden and fairly bland.
Which, one could argue, doesn’t really matter as we’re all here to see Pam Grier flash her considerable assets and kick a little ass – which she does tremendously – but it all seems a little flat when put next to the slicker Coffy. It starts off moving pretty quickly but as the film leaves act two and goes into act three it seems to come to a halt and plods its way to the final showdown, where it gathers up a little more pace for the final setpiece.
The disc itself is loaded with some funky extras that include a commentary from Jack Hill, a cracking little documentary entitled Back to Black where blaxploitation legends Fred Williamson (Black Caesar/From Dusk Till Dawn), Austin Stoker (Sheba Baby) and Rosanne Katon (Ebony, Ivory & Jade) talk about the genre and its enduring popularity (and in Williams’ case, himself), interviews with actor Sid Haig and actor/stuntman Bob Minor, stills gallery, a Jack Hill trailer reel, reversible sleeve and collector’s booklet that includes interviews, stills and posters. The picture quality on the disc is excellent and was overseen by Jack Hill himself, and that ’70’s score sounds wonderful, although the audio levels are a little inconsistent with some of the dialogue difficult to make out in places.
Foxy Brown has a reputation as a classic and when put into context it’s easy to see why as, on the surface, it has all the base elements that the blaxploitation genre thrived on at its peak and ticks all the boxes. However, ticking all the boxes could also be read as generic and when given a little more scrutiny it doesn’t really hold up as a great film; it has moments – some very good and very fun moments – and gives you what you (probably) watch these films for but underneath the style and fun there’s not a lot else going on, despite the best efforts of everybody involved. All of which may sound more negative than it probably should – as throwaway fun is still fun, right? – and the package as a whole is definitely one that fans will enjoy and newbies to ’70’s blaxploitation will find accessible and, with regards to the extras, informative, but you may find that the special features may get more repeated viewings than the main film.
Special Features: Audio commentary with director Jack Hill, From Black and White to Blaxploitation – actor Sid Haig speaks about his long and influential friendship with Jack Hill, A Not So Minor Influence interview with Bob Minor, the first African-American member of the Stuntman’s Association, Back to Black – Legendary actors Fred “The Hammer” Williamson and Austin Stoker, alongside Rosanne Katon and film scholar Howard S. Berger speak about the enduring popularity of the blaxploitation film, photo gallery of behind-the-scenes and publicity images, Jack Hill trailer reel, collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by author Josiah Howard, a new interview with Pam Grier by Jack Hill biographer Calum Waddell, illustrated with original archive stills and posters.
UK Release Date: 24th June 2013