Foxy Brown Reviews
Link Brown: "Foxy, I'm a black man, and I don't know how to sing, and I don't know how to dance, and I don't know how to preach to no congregation. I'm too small to be a football hero, and too ugly to be elected mayor. But I watch TV and see all these folks and the nice homes they live in and all them fancy cars they drive, I just get so full of ambition. Now you tell me what I'm supposed to do with all this ambition?"
Foxy Brown: "I don't know, Link, I just don't want to see you end up in jail, or gunned down in the streets somewhere."
Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me has been on my reading list for some time. I have a basic understanding of the concepts in this book because my liberal church discussed it in relation to the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement. I know that Coates takes a hard look at the theme of the American Dream as portrayed in the mass media, especially fabricated TV sitcoms, and how this suburban "Dream" is an exclusionary fantasy of white privilege. Back in 1974 this is exactly what Link is talking about. Coates' ideas were already understood by part of the population and are completely ignored to this day by another part of the population. In this action film Foxy Brown uses sex appeal and well hidden weapons to bring down the two people most responsible for ordering the hit on her boyfriend, Elias (Peter Brown) and Miss Katherine (Kathryn Loder). Foxy is easy to root for and the groovy fashions are such fun.
Foxy Brown is one of the best examples of the genre reaching cult status amongst such filmmakers as Quentin Tarantino who copied elements of it in his own film Jackie Brown years later.
The film stars Pam Grier as Foxy Brown who looks like the modern day footballer Marounne Fallaini with her Jackson 5 style hairstyle and garish seventies fashion sense.
Brown is a streetwise yet attractive character who exerts revenge on a gang of drug dealers who shoot her boyfriend.
The film was originally intended as a sequel to the successful Blaxploitation film Coffy but at the studio request was made a standalone film at the last minute.
I found this film immensely entertaining and am surprised I had never seen or heard of it before. Recommended.
Well worth tracking down, as you get to source about a half dozen sound bites you've heard in dozens of songs over the years, all from a single film.
A woman's boyfriend is murdered by a drug gang. She, Foxy Brown (played by Pam Grier), then sets out to avenge his death.
Interesting and action-packed but, if you've already seen Coffy, the previous Jack Hill-Pam Grier collaboration (Hill being the writer and director), it seems largely second-hand. Very similar main plot to Coffy, with less plausible twists and escapes. Characters are less well developed and there's less engagement.
It all just feels like Coffy Lite.
However, still entertaining and Pam Grier, as before, puts in a great performance in the lead role.
What filmmakers would go through to capture the minds of a particular audience. Foxy Brown is a prominent entry into the exploitation films that explores African-American trends and appeals and utilise them in cinematic storytelling, either for financial profit or artistic experimentation; this type of exploitation in cinema is regarded as "Blaxploitation", I know the name sounds ridiculous. As I have said earlier, these type of films are catered to a particular audience, therefore budget would be limited as there would be higher risk for the producer if large amounts of money is spent, hence almost all aspects of production is notches lower than what is expected from the large-studio productions of that similar era.
Foxy Brown starts off with mystery and intrigue, a man (Link) walking down the street being pursued by loan-shark gangsters. Out of panic, he goes into fight or flight mode, deciding to evade them through the help of her sister (Foxy Brown) to pick him up, while he keeps the gangsters distant by being in close proximity with police officers. Eventually he succeeds in getting away, and from here on, details of his situation begin to emerge. Foxy Brown spends its first 40 minutes establishing its characters and the world they live in, and the film achieves this wonderfully, keeping me engaged with understanding the conditions of their society, how some would go far in order to maintain peace and justice within their neighbourhood. It was themes that made the film feel more intelligent than what it advertises itself out to be.
Then the plot's primary complication sets into motion, shifting its tone to a more action/revenge-orientated adventure; which rarely spends any time in building its characters. It is quite obvious that by catering to its primary target audience, a sense of good and evil is established and it does so in a shallow way; on making the Caucasians the villains and the African-Americans the heroes. I would have loved it if the film made both sides three-dimensional characters, instead of being just simply defined by the colour of their skin. I also felt the film's conclusion lacked that "wow" factor, building up into a climax that achieves neither a sense of thrill or shock.
Foxy Brown features the soul/funk music that was dominant in the airwaves of the 1970s; a genre that was built and highly praised by the African-American community. My personal opinion on the genre has always been positive, creating that auditory flavour that very few musicians could achieve. It is a genre that is defined firmly by its particular sound, something that takes influences from its ancestors but never coming off as a rip-off or uninspired. So hearing it in Foxy Brown gave the film that unique flavour, making it feel different from the blockbuster films of its time.
In regards to the acting performances, Pam Grier as Foxy Brown was lacklustre, being the worst aspect of the film's cast; coming off as not sassy enough during dominating scenes or not dramatic enough when the heart of the character wants to be exposed. The rest of the cast though were fitting in their parts, even if they weren't exactly "moving".
I know I am being highly-nitpicky with a film that sets its bar really low, but when compared to every other film in the history of cinema and how much this film has personally impressed me, it is a bit pale. I guess I had so much expectation given that I adored Tarantino's Jackie Brown, but I think it all really depends on the person handling the material.
Initially intended as a sequel to 1973's 'Coffy', writer/director Jack Hill and genre icon Pam Grier reunite here for what is essentially the same premise. As the epitome of beauty, strength and independence, Grier seeks revenge and takes on a drug and prostitution syndicate lead by an over-the-top Kathryn Loder and her lover Peter Brown, who delivers a performance that's stronger than what the genre usually allows. Antonio Fargas is also quite delightful as Foxy's heroine-addicted brother.
Engaging from the get-go and littered with some brilliantly choreographed action sequences (the lesbian bar fight is particular highlight as is Foxy's revenge on her rapist and captors), the political and social messages are always at the surface here. Yes, 'Foxy Brown' is by no means a perfect film, but there's no denying that it's always entertaining.