Cleopatra Jones (1973)
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
No Top Critics Tomatometer score yet...
Movie InfoIn this blaxploitationer, martial-arts expert Cleopatra Jones (Tamara Dobson) works for the government as a secret agent and tries to rescue her old neighborhood of Watts from a gangleader/drug queenpin named Mommy (Shelley Winters).
No Friends? Inconceivable! Log in to see what your friends have to say.
Critic Reviews for Cleopatra Jones
Audience Reviews for Cleopatra Jones
Typical blaxplotation flick of the '70's. Dobson is striking in the lead. Shelley Winters has her acting dial turned up to maximum consuming scenery at every turn.More
This one's surprisingly solid as both campy fun and a decent actioner in general. Of course, I'm also meaning decent on the B-Movie scale, but still, some fine work. Tamara Dobson is fine in the lead, and she comes off as more Afrocentric than her contemporary Pam Grier, if you're into subtext sorts of things.
The film addresses urban poverty, crime, drugs, THE MAN, and has some hilarious political incorrect giggle moments (well, especially for me given my age, race, and the fact that I've never watched this film without alcohol in my system. So yeah, it might be cheap, and a bit of a mess, but it's blaxploitation, so it's not boring, and quite a lot of fun.
This is basically one of the required watches of that wonderful subgenre, so definitely give it a watch if this is your sort of thing.
Back in the Seventies, mainstream audiences still reeling from the one-two punch of Shaft and Superfly were subjected to a barrage of ghetto avengers - Black Caesar, Willie Dynamite, The Candy Tangerine Man and the rest - all covering depressingly familiar terrain. Black writer Max Julien (also an actor, playing the lead role in the pimpsploitation classic The Mack) offered AiP his script for a female alternative but passed. Warner was quick to snatch up the rights, and in 1973 foisted the first black superchick onto the American public: Cleopatra Jones.
The film opens with a blazing opium field somewhere in Turkey. Cleo Jones, hap-ki-do expert and international do-gooder, returns to America to report on her success as a 'special agent' in her one-woman war on dope. Lesbian drug baroness Mommy (Shelley Winters, fresh from Corman's Bloody Mama) is furious her poppy fields were torched, and threatens an all-out war between the Brothers and the Mothers. One of Mommy's uppity underlings, Doodlebug (Antonio Fargas, best remembered as Huggy Bear in Starsky And Hutch) is getting rich off stealing Mommy's coke, and provides a cautionary moral aside warning against living as a White Man's flunky (Cleo points to Doodlebug's white chauffeur, and asks "What next - two white jockeys on the lawn?"). With a "whacka-whacka" superfunk guitar in the background, Cleo does her chop-sockey routine on the coke dealers and crooked cops, and kicks Shelley Winters' portly ass for her wild overacting in the final showdown. Tamara Dobson as Cleo Jones reportedly stood 6"2, and that doesn't include what must've been the BIGGEST afro in the business! Despite her physical prowess, the script doesn't give Cleo any real motive for her cartoon crusade (unlike the later Coffy and Foxy Brown) and reduces her to a smug self-satisfied cardboard cutout. Add the sloppy direction by Jack Starrett and you get a surprisingly poor release by a major studio.
Overall, pretty good. If your movie can't have quality, at least it can be highly ridiculous, which makes it fun to watch. One thing I like about blaxploitation in general is that it has a sense of humor about itself...
All the right ingredients are here: a car chase, drug pushers, racist cops, hand to hand combat, nightclub scenes and, of course, the hilarious dialogue ("See you around, super honky!"), and if it's not deep, it is at least a fun way to kill ninety minutes.
Discuss Cleopatra Jones on our Movie forum!