The Film: 4/5
Late one night Foxy Brown (Pam Grier) is woken up by a call from her lowlife drug dealer brother Link (Antonio Fargas) who is about to get a righteous beat down from some unsavory thugs he made the mistake of getting into business with. She saves his sorry ass but he's still in the hole for $20,000, due in two days and no more. Meanwhile Foxy's boyfriend Michael (Terry Carter) has just received a face lift so he retire comfortably after spending the past two years attempting ineffectually to bring the city's drug kingpins Katherine Wall (Kathryn Loder) and Steve Elias (Peter Brown) - who are also lovers - to justice. Before Foxy and Michael take off on a much-needed vacation Michael is gunned down by the very dope peddlers he was trying to put away. After discovering that Link sold Michael out to Wall and Elias in exchange for the money he needed to save his life, Foxy sets out to destroy their operation by any means necessary - from manipulating their paid-off clientele in the legal system to just flat out shooting every pistol-wielding honky first in the face and last in the balls with a sawed-off shotgun. With a little help of Oscar (Bob Minor) and his street justice-dealing revolutionaries, Foxy Brown is going to treat "Miss" Katherine and her scumbag boyfriend to a four course buffet of revenge and retribution.
“That’s my sister, and she’s a whole lotta woman!” The words spoken by Fargas’ character after receiving an epic humiliation at the hands of Grier’s vivacious and sexy avenging angel speaks volumes about this B-action classic, its titular character, and the supremely gifted actress who played her - an icon of feminine badassery if ever there was one. Originally intended to be a sequel to Coffy called Burn, Coffy, Burn, Foxy Brown found Grier reuniting with the director who essentially made her a star - Jack Hill. The two first worked together on the women-in-prison flick The Big Doll House, the movie that also marked Grier's professional acting debut, and they would follow that up with another WIP entry called The Big Bird Cage and Grier's first starring role in Coffy. Hill knows exactly what Grier is capable of delivering when the camera is turned on her and of course she never disappoints. Foxy Brown is almost a beat-for-beat remake of Coffy as they share the basic plot of a woman out for revenge against drug dealing scum who took the life of someone close to her and both have the propensity for chases, shootouts, unbridled nudity and violence, white racist villains who are irredeemable trash and deserve to die, catfights, and a brutal finale where a man loses his bait-and-tackle and the ultimate justice is served. But every part of Coffy that worked like gangbusters functions just as smoothly when its remolded into the plot of what would be Grier and Hill's final film together, and it's just as exciting and fun.
The question of Foxy's survival is never in doubt because this is no woman doomed to be another damsel in distress. She knows how to take care of herself and anyone else who tries to take her out on her road to retribution. Stick her in a wooden shack with a needle full of heroin in her veins and a sweaty, piggish rapist (H.B. Haggerty) trying to mount her like he's Jason Biggs screwing an apple pie and she'll burn all of those motherfuckers to the ground without breaking a nail. Grier will forever be one of the original and best of the female action movie heroes; she puts pretenders like Angelina Jolie and Scarlett Johansson to shame and does it with a sensuous smile and a come hither look that would give the Devil half a stock. She radiates pure, unadulterated star power as Foxy Brown and has one of the most unassumingly authoritative screen presences of any actress I've ever seen. It's one of the great travesties of cinema history that Grier did not go on to become a breakout movie star, but in retrospect it was probably for the better. Film may be a male-dominated industry but it isn't man enough to handle a real star like Pam Grier. She kicks ass and sweet talks potential allies and enemies with brash intelligence and sophistication. Foxy Brown is Grier's character and Grier's movie through and through and her energized, steadfast performance is the engine that makes this mean machine fly like a bat out of Hell.
Unpredictability is not Foxy Brown's strong suit; the movie is very by-the-numbers and only works as a series of hilarious and thrilling set pieces that wear their grindhouse label like a badge of honor. Kicking things off, Foxy is summoned to rescue wayward brother Link from thugs and ends up driving one of them into the damn ocean. Then once Michael gets killed all bets are off. Foxy joins up with Katherine's high-priced prostitution ring and along with another hooker named Claudia gets to brutally humiliate a horny white judge over the size of his member in a scene that is resolved in a manner we would all hope for. A free-for-all brawl in a lesbian bar with realistic choreography, a sexual encounter with Foxy's boyfriend while he's still laid up in the hospital that has an amusing conclusion, and a wild finale in the desert with Foxy taking down the bad guys with an airplane she stole from fleeting guest star Sid Haig are some of the lurid highlights on display.
Fargas makes a perfect duplicitous scoundrel in a performance that seemed to predate his more sympathetic and likeable turn as Huggy Bear on Starsky & Hutch, while Loder and Brown make a fine pair of truly evil villains whose inevitable comeuppance is not what you would expect but still might bring a depraved smile to your face. Motown recording artist Willie Hutch's original soundtrack isn't as instantly memorable as Roy Ayers' work on Coffy but it works just as well providing the action and quieter moments with some impressive, low-fi funk and soul sounds.
SOLID! Sourced from a 1080i print courtesy of current rights holder MGM that was prepared in 2010 for their HD movie channel, Arrow's new transfer of Foxy Brown represents the best the movie has ever looked since its theatrical release nearly four decades ago. Presented in its original 1.85:1 theatrical widescreen aspect ratio, the quality of the picture explodes with vivid colors and strong details. You can see practically every wrinkle in the garish decade-appropriate fashions. The remastered picture also does wonders for the timeless beauty of Pam Grier, by far the most wondrous visual in this movie. Grain content is kept to the bare minimum. The only audio option offered by Arrow is an uncompressed English 2.0 PCM mono track, but it's a really strong one. Though the dialogue sounds a little low and muffled at times every component of the sound mix comes through nice and clear. Willie Hutch's funktastic soundtrack is the greatest beneficiary of this boosted audio track. English subtitles are also included.
SUPERBAD! Foxy Brown was first released on DVD by MGM back in 2001 with a few scant bonus features, but Arrow has once again outclassed the competition by supplementing the previously available features with some informative new interviews and documentaries for the movie's first outing on Blu-ray.
Ported over from the region 1 DVD is an audio commentary with Jack Hill that finds the director diving head long into the production of Foxy Brown and the myriad of battles he was forced to engage in with financier American-International Pictures, some of which were related to the character-building scenes Hill devised and preferred but the studio hated. His memories of the movie are mostly positive and he has wonderful things to say about Pam Grier and the other cast members, his talented technical crew and stunt performers, and the filming of the movie in general. Hill makes for a fascinating speaker with plenty of good stories in his arsenal.
Next up are three new featurettes exclusive to this release directed by Calum Waddell. The first is "From Black and White to Blaxploitation" (20 minutes), an interview with cult cinema icon Sid Haig where he discusses his friendship and multiple collaborations with Jack Hill. They first teamed up in the early 60's on Hill's western short film "The Host" that would later serve as an inspiration for the third act of Apocalypse Now and continued on to such psychotronic classics as Spider Baby, Pit Stop, and the Filipino women in prison flicks where Haig first worked with Pam Grier. Their work together in Coffy and Foxy Brown is touched upon and the interview concludes with a brief but amusing story about Haig's cameo as a judge in Jackie Brown, much to Grier's pleasant surprise. Haig is always a joy to watch when he talks about his career and the many weird and wild movies he's acted in so this interview will be irresistible to fans of the action and gonzo cinema in particular.
Actor and stuntman Bob Minor, who played Oscar in Foxy Brown, talks about his career in film and television in "A Not So Minor Influence" (19 minutes). From his beginnings doubling for James Iglehart on Russ Meyer's Beyond the Valley of the Dolls to his work with Jack Hill starting with Coffy, Minor is a veritable fountain of amusing anecdotes and fond remembrances. He even spends the last few minutes of the interview offering his thoughts on the Blaxploitation genre and how it has forever impacted the role of African-Americans in the film industry. Time well spent with a terrific industry veteran.
No one involved with Foxy Brown participated in "Back to Black" (25 minutes), an in-depth documentary about the cultural legacy and impact of Blaxploitation cinema from the perspective of three actors whose careers were made during the genre's heyday: Austin Stoker (Abby, Sheba, Baby), Rosanne Katon (Ebony, Ivory, and Jade), and the immortal Fred "The Hammer" Williamson - a one man cottage industry of exploitation goodness whose highlights included Black Caesar, The Legend of Nigger Charley, and Mean Johnny Barrows (opinions on those choices may vary). Film historian Howard S. Berger is on hand to provide his genre expertise and play the token white guy. The three actors are full of stories and opinions about their time working in the rising black cinema and seem to openly despise the term "Blaxploitation" (which was likely coined by Melvin Van Peebles, writer and director of Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song) but cannot deny the large and important the movies they did and the ones they didn't played in increasing the presence of black filmmakers and performers in Hollywood. Without Shaft, Superfly, and Foxy Brown leading the charge in breaking down the barriers for minorities in the film industry it's highly doubtful that we would have ever seen the likes of Spike Lee, Carl Franklin, Charles Burnett, Kasi Lemmons, and John Singleton.
Arrow has also thankfully included a trailer reel featuring previews for nine movies directed by Jack Hill: Spider Baby, Pit Stop, The Big Doll House, The Big Bird Cage, Coffy, The Swinging Cheerleaders, Switchblade Sisters, Sorceress, and of course Foxy Brown. Some of the movies on this list have yet to be released on Blu-ray (while Sorceress is only available via out-of-print VHS) although Arrow will soon make Spider Baby available in the format.
An image gallery featuring a small selection of production stills, lobby cards, and behind the scenes photos closes out the supplements on this disc. Included with this Blu-ray, but not made available to us for review, will be Arrow's customary reversible cover featuring new art by the Red Dress and a collector's booklet with an essay on Foxy Brown written by Blaxploitation Cinema: The Essential Reference Guide author Josiah Howard, an interview with Pam Grier conducted by Calum Waddell, and original archive stills and posters.
Foxy Brown is a double-barreled blast of stylish, bloody, sexy fun from two unequivocal masters of 1970's B-cinema - Jack Hill and his voluptuous and voracious muse Pam Grier. Arrow Video has given the movie a groovin' HD restoration and supplied it with an array of juicy extra features, making this a surefire recommendation. CAN YA DIG IT