Thursday, June 10, 2010


You aren't going to find the words "smart" and "blaxploitation" in the same sentence too often.  There's a good reason for this.  Blaxploitation films were made quickly and cheaply, with little time spent on the writing, directing, or editing of the films.  Coffy is actually one of the better blaxploitation films, but it obviously suffers from a low budget and terrible script.  Many blaxploitation staples are present here, so pull out your scorecard and check 'em off...
  • Black drug dealers/pimps
  • The white man trying to keep the black man down
  • Gratuitous nudity
  • Funk beats and waka-chicka guitars
  • Soundtrack songs that explain the plot
  • Racist white villains
Yep, all present and accounted for!  Of course, with all those qualities present in the movie, it can't be that bad, can it?

Coffy (Pam Grier) is a nurse whose young sister got hooked on drugs (heroin, I think) and is now mostly comatose.  Coffy handles the situation the best she can; she pretends to be a junkie willing to exchange sex for drugs and shoots her sister's dealer in the face with a shotgun.  All's well that ends well, right?  Actually, the movie keeps going for another eighty minutes because Coffy keeps finding new bad guys to kill.  To track down the baddies, Coffy does the most sensible thing she can do: she poses as a high class Jamaican prostitute, just to get time alone with the men she holds responsible for the local drug trade.  That doesn't always work well; she spends almost a third of the movie in captivity after she fails to kill a white kingpin.  Overall, though, her strategy works pretty well.

This isn't a movie that would translate well into a book.  Writer/director Jack Hill's script was pretty bad at the time and hasn't aged well in the last 30+ years.  Luckily, a lot of its jive talk has gone from cool to lame and is now in the humorously quaint category, so it's actually kind of fun to hear nowadays.  To give you an example of some of the quality writing here, ask yourself what you would do to disguise yourself as a Jamaican prostitute.  Was your answer "Just add 'mon' to the end of all my sentences"?  If it was, you missed your calling writing blaxploitation screenplays.

The movie obviously has a low budget, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.  While Coffy's weapon of choice is a shotgun, you see precious little blood, even when she shoots a man in a swimming pool.  And the guys she shoots in the crotch...well, it's probably better that they didn't have the money to show that.  I actually think Coffy does a good job with the action, despite the low budget.  While seeing some fake blood would have made the movie a little better, it wouldn't have made a huge difference overall; the key was Coffy having a kick-ass attitude, which Grier definitely delivers.

I have a few unanswered questions after viewing this film.  Sid Haig's character is an enforcer for a drug kingpin.  He is supposed to take Coffy out somewhere, give her an overdose, and leave her to die.  Instead, he injects her with the drugs (actually, it's sugar that Coffy swapped for the drugs.  Shh!!!  Don't tell Sid!) and then tries to have consensual sex with her.  That's right.  He's preparing to have sex with a woman that might die during the act.  Eww.  I mean, classy.

And what's with the bad guy that is wearing glasses, but one of the lenses is blackened out?  I'm not stupid, I get that the dude is missing an eye, but he's missing out on an amazing opportunity that totally would have been boss in the 1970s.  He should have worn a monocle and an eye patch.  I swear, I'm not a Hollywood stylist, but sometimes I get inspiration.

Look, the movie's not very good.  The dialogue is terrible, the acting is amateurish and the direction is nonexistent.  And yet, the first half of the movie is pretty entertaining.  Pam Grier is a sassy woman and there is a lot of violence and a lot of gratuitous nudity.  Sure, the movie gets boring for the 30 or 40 minutes where it delivers all of its exposition, but that's a relatively small price to pay.  The awesomeness of Pam Grier more or less cancels out the awfulness of the rest of the movie.

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