Cleopatra Jones - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Cleopatra Jones Reviews

Page 1 of 6
jjnxn
Super Reviewer
January 21, 2010
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.
cosmo313
Super Reviewer
June 14, 2010
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.
Super Reviewer
½ October 16, 2009
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.
Super Reviewer
½ June 15, 2007
Tamara Dobson defitley blends Bond and Blaxplotation well, from kung-fu action to a gaggle of vaugely similar looking crooks, and an absolutley implausable yet oh-so-cliched villian... and, the standard blaxploitation subplot of drugs and being busted by the cops who always recruit according to the 50% racist quota.

Cleopatra Jones is cheesy, but entertaining, and well put together.
Super Reviewer
February 26, 2007
An off tha hook 70's blaxploitation action packed flick...Tamara Dobson is no longer with us probably ran into Ron Super Fly) O'Neal up in heaven...may she rest in peace!
lesleyanorton
Super Reviewer
October 3, 2009
"LAPD-officer-turned-UN-spy, Cleopatra Jones, hooks up with a handsome thief as she tries to keep a diabolical weapon from being used against the UN Secretary General". Well that's a pile of nonsense. Cleopatra Jones, US special agent, heroine and goddess to all fights the baddies (drug barons, dirty cops, Huggy Bear, etc etc) and frees the world of crime. Or something. Either way, you know the storyline is going to involve all your 70's favourites, such as made-fo-TV action sequences, funky outfits and dodgy dialogue. The script and the music aren't a spit on The Mack, but the plot sits easier on 21st century sensibilities and Tamara Dobson is beeeauttiful.... even if she can't fight for toffee.
February 23, 2013
A slick, well produced film, Cleopatra Jones is an enjoyable blaxpolitation film. Amazonian Tamara Dobson looks amazing but acting wise leaves a lot to desire plays the title role of a foxy government agent out to stop the distrubtion of heoin in the streets of L.A. from an outrageous, over the top zaftig named Mommy(a scenery chewing Shelley Winters and the film's real saving grace.) It's fun to wtch her rip into her gang members and the showdown between both women is enjoyable. The movie is campy fun and moves along with a wonderful pace. Sit back and put your brain to relax as this film is not Shakespere but never intended to be brilliant just enetertaining and that is where the film suceeds.
½ September 28, 2011
"Your hair is like a woman, treat it good and it treats you good...Yeah you gotta hold it, caress it,love it and it'll love you right back. And if your hair gets out of line, you take a sissor and say 'Hair I'm gonna cut you'.-Doodlebug (Antoio Fargas)

Tamar Dobson is no Pam Grier but she holds her own. More goofy then most blaxploitation film. Wish there was a wee bit more screen time for Winters.

"To protect and serve...shhhhit."-Reuban Masters (Bernie Casey)
March 28, 2010
I thought it was a neat movie to watch and had a good message. I liked all of the actors and even though there may be some stereotypes it still a decent for its time.
October 31, 2009
This movie was so bad that I couldn't stop laughing! This is definately one of the worst exploitation films ever. In fact, this is one of the worst film films ever.
June 20, 2009
A Fundamental Misunderstanding of How the Drug Works

At the beginning of the movie, the titular Cleopatra Jones (6'2" Tamara Dobson, listed in Guinness as history's Tallest Leading Lady) supervises the torching of an opium poppy field in Turkey. This is established to be $30 million in opium, and that in 1973. When gang leader/drug lord (lady?) "Mommy" (Shelley Winters) finds out about it, she declares that all of Turkey must be high. Now, it is true that smoking opium is one way of using it to get high. However, I am unable to find any evidence that burning the fields themselves produces the kind of effect Mommy thinks is happening. I have found pages going into fairly exhaustive detail about how to extract opium from poppies. I have found many, [i]many[/i] pages discussing the effect burning opium fields has on local populations and drug traffic as a whole. I have also found a heck of a lot of evidence proving that Mommy's Turkish opium farm is at best unlikely. (It's not unlike a gun dealer owning a factory.) But I doubt all of Turkey is as high as all that.

Mommy knows that the best way to get Cleo out of Mommy's way is to strike where Cleo's heart is. She sets up a police raid on some halfway house or something where Cleo's boyfriend, Reuben (Bernie Casey) works. In the raid, a cop plants heroin on someone there, which is supposed to be a pretext for getting the entire place closed down. Of course, Cleo has friends in the department, so she gets that sorted out. She also tries to keep Reuben from what appears about a step shy of armed revolt. Meanwhile, Mommy is having trouble with Doodlebug Simkins (Antonio Fargas, who specialized, it seems, in playing characters with ridiculous names--such as, of course, Huggy Bear), who is trying to break free and run his own racket. (One rather wonders where he'll get heroin from, given that he himself owns no fields!) Mommy has him killed, then goes after his girlfriend, Tiffany (Brenda Sykes), who was supposed to be killed in the accident Doodlebug was in but wasn't. Cleo protects her, and so forth. Much shooting. Many car chases. All sorts of slang that may or may not have already been out-of-date the day the movie was filmed. That sort of thing.

We are not exactly looking at high art, here. Shelley Winters is wearing what I earnestly hope is just a really unattractive wig, and she is clearly intended to be an Evil Lesbian, that favourite of Hollywood. The character of Cleo has hot cars, fancy clothes, and an enormous afro. She is the only person who can take Mommy down, despite the fact that not all the cops in town are corrupt. (For heaven's sake, couldn't she be gotten on federal smuggling charges? They do seem to know that the field is Mommy's.) It is, bluntly, blaxploitation; well, that much was obvious from the title, after all. However, it is a genre that I find curiously charming. Not, by any stretch, inherently skilled in its creation, though I'm sure there are exceptions that I just haven't gotten to yet. Gods know they're formulaic as anything, and the writing and acting tend to be pretty much caricatures of real people. But they amuse me for all that.

Of course, central to any cop story of this variety is the idea that Our Hero (or, in this case, Heroine--with an "e") is the toughest, coolest, snazziest person in town. Mrs. Johnson (Esther Rolle) digs Cleo's boots. Crawford (I think; Dan Frazer if I'm right), her boss, thinks she's the sharpest law enforcement officer around. Which she is and must be. Men admire her. Criminals fear her. She drives a Corvette. She whizzes around on a motorbike at one point--wearing a shirt that's just a step shy of see-through and which reveals quite a lot anyway. (And a turban-y thing.) She wears distinctive--read ridiculous--clothes and holds a great devotion to Her Man. Cleo is supposed to Just That Awesome. As is usual with this sort of movie--and I don't just mean blaxploitation cop movies--within the world, she is. She beats up three armed thugs in an airport baggage claim without smudging her makeup. Of course, devotion to Her Man is what we want out of a female Awesome Cop, not a male one, but she does it. If she were male, she'd take advantage of all the people fawning all over her before finding Just the Right One. But a lot of the other aspects of the movie would still be there and still be awfully silly.

This is neither the first nor the last of Shelley Winters to be encountered here, but I suspect this is the one where she's least pathetic. Oh, sure, she makes up for it by being an unlikable racketeer willing to kill a relatively innocent woman so she can't tell anything to anyone (I think that's what was going on), but at least she seems able to take care of it herself--or, rather, have the power to order flunkies to do it for her. Doodlebug thinks he can thwart her will, but she shows him that he can't. She makes very clear several places in the film that she'll make sure people don't fail her more than once. She gets taken down by Cleo, but at least she isn't murdered and left in a river by Robert Mitchum--or in a lake by Montgomery Clift.
June 5, 2009
I'm a huge fan of exploitation films, which is a fancy way of saying trashy cinema. The 1970's was pretty much the golden era for these sorts of films, and a lot of them have ranked among my favorite films of all time. I tend to like exploitation films that have strong female leads, like Switchblade Sisters (which I reviewed a few weeks back).

Now when it comes to memorable female leads from this era, Pam Grier always comes to mind as being the stand out from the pack. But I felt an urge to give another actress' films a chance, which is why I selected Cleopatra Jones off of Netflix the other week.

Tamara Dobson portrays the title character of Cleopatra Jones, who is a secret government agent and international spy, or something like that. There is something likable about Dobson as an actor, but she just doesn't bring Cleopatra Jones to life enough for the character to truly stand out. She talked loud, could take on anyone and could handle just about any dangerous task without getting scratched. But the character felt false to me, and too larger than life to believe and too silly to enjoy on screen.

The movie also suffers from very poor pacing, and a lack of focus in the story. There are far too many characters in Cleopatra Jones, most of which go in and out of the story so much you begin to forget who they are when they pop back up later on in the film. And because of me losing track of who was who, I also began to lose track of what exactly was going on in the film.

There are two saving graces to Cleopatra Jones. J.J. Johnson's score was particularly great, especially during the fight sequences (which were noticeably choreographed, and highly unsatisfying to watch). And then there was the ever wonderful Shelly Winters, who I have to wonder how the hell ended up in a film like this, as the movie's main villain Mommy. Maybe it was seeing her in a role that was so different from what I'm accustomed to seeing her in that made her presence in this film so memorable.

The problem with most exploitation films is that most of them rely on their larger than life character(s) to carry the film. Sometimes it works, like in the cast of Shaft or Foxy Brown. But sometimes, the character just isn't crafted well, or just isn't interesting enough to make you forget how lackluster the story is, like in the case of Cleopatra Jones.
½ October 12, 2007
Fun, campy comic drama with a woman in the titular role. Cleo is a federal agent determined to destroy the drug empire of the kingpin Mommy!, played by none other than legendary actor Shelly Winters.
August 18, 2007
Tamara Dobson was the personification of cool and strength. Where else could you see an African-American female portray a spy on screen. The former model was classy and fashionable on screen. her costumes were always incredible.
February 5, 2007
Tamara Jones passed away late last year (2006) but her work as a black female hero lives on. This is a good late night or Sunday afternoon flick.
½ April 15, 2016
Needless to say, my favourite Quentin Tarantino film is 'Jackie Brown'. I enjoyed the action, and Tamara Dobson was gorgeous (I can't believe she was 6'2"! Wow!). I wish she had done more movies, and hadn't died so young (at age 59, of pneumonia and multiple sclerosis). Though director Starrett (who died even younger, of kidney failure) mainly did TV work, I loved his 'Race with the Devil', which was from around this time. He was very good at these kind of films, at both presenting action set-pieces and building suspense.

I would like to see ALL of these 'urban action' films. Though from my movie-watching experience, I find that I tend to prefer films from before 1970, these films from the 70's are great too, and are a lot more enjoyable to me than most films I see today.

I sincerely hope that, like in 'Cleopatra Jones', the filmmakers of today could concentrate on actors' presence and stunts, rather than simply go with CGI. I for one would be a lot happier as a cinephile.
½ March 7, 2014
Needless to say, my favourite Quentin Tarantino film is 'Jackie Brown'. I enjoyed the action, and Tamara Dobson was gorgeous (I can't believe she was 6'2"! Wow!). I wish she had done more movies, and hadn't died so young (at age 59, of pneumonia and multiple sclerosis). Though director Starrett (who died even younger, of kidney failure) mainly did TV work, I loved his 'Race with the Devil', which was from around this time. He was very good at these kind of films, at both presenting action set-pieces and building suspense.

I would like to see ALL of these 'urban action' films. Though from my movie-watching experience, I find that I tend to prefer films from before 1970, these films from the 70's are great too, and are a lot more enjoyable to me than most films I see today.

I sincerely hope that, like in 'Cleopatra Jones', the filmmakers of today could concentrate on actors' presence and stunts, rather than simply go with CGI. I for one would be a lot happier as a cinephile.
½ July 5, 2015
This is entertaining just based on the plot alone.
Page 1 of 6