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FOXY BROWN

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Pam Grier, Peter Brown, Terry Carter, Antonio Fargas
Director:  Jack Hill
Audio:  Dolby 2-Channel Mono
Video:  Widescreen 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Studio:  MGM/UA
Features:  Theatrical Trailer, Commentary Track
Length:  91 Minutes
Release Date:  January 9, 2001

Film **

Foxy Brown is a film that really puts the “exploitation” into the so-called “blaxploitation” films.  Originally intended by writer/director Jack Hill to be a sequel to his hit Coffy, and bringing back his shapely action lady Pam Grier, the studio nixed the idea at the last moment claiming sequels weren't good business (imagine that!), and the film and leading character were thereby christened with the new name.

These films were originally seen as a way to provide screen time for talented but little-seen black actors and actresses, and to cater to a segment of the population largely under-represented by mainstream Hollywood at the time.  Often made for a budget of about half a million dollars, most of the pictures turned a profit and kept the genre going for a while.  A few, like Shaft, even managed crossover success and were enjoyed by non-black audiences as well.  Director Quentin Tarantino was a big fan of these movies, which is why he wanted to make Jackie Brown into a comeback vehicle for Pam Grier.  Word is, when she first met with Tarantino at his offices, she couldn't help but notice the giant poster of Foxy Brown in the lobby.  “Did you put that up because I was coming?” she asked him.  “Actually,” he replied, “I almost took it down because you were coming.”

Foxy Brown was made for the same amount of money as Coffy, but this time around, both director Hill and star Grier commanded a bigger salary, leaving less money to do other things with.  The resulting film is, I think, less entertaining than its predecessor.  More violence, less sex.

As the story opens, Foxy (Grier) is having to rescue her no-good brother Link (Fargas) from what appears to be another in a long string of tight spots.  She tries to give him a place to stay and help him clean up his act, but he turns traitor on her, identifying to the local drug gang her undercover cop boyfriend Michael (Carter), who had recently been giving plastic surgery to hide himself away until he could testify against the criminals.  The gang blows him away right at Foxy's front door.  Link, of course, gets his in the end, but the rest of the story is about Foxy's quest for revenge.

She infiltrates the gang in the guise of a prostitute named Misty Cotton (allowing the gorgeous Ms. Grier an opportunity to sport some VERY flattering gowns).  Their racket is to bribe judges and other high ranking officials into helping keep their members out of jail.  When Foxy is through with her assignment, though, the judge is throwing the book at them.

The picture climaxes in a bloody finale…lots of blood, lots of mayhem, and one or two gratuitous shots of Ms. Grier's uncovered physique.  I'm guessing long before you watch a bad guy chopped up by propeller blades, you will have already figured out that this movie isn't meant to be highbrow entertainment.

As mentioned, this really isn't one of the better pics I've seen from the genre, although Pam Grier makes a formidable leading lady whose talents seem to transcend the material.  If you aren't familiar with “blaxploitation”, this might be an okay film to start out with, but be warned…these movies aren't for everybody.  Ironically, I was a little shocked and disturbed by how many different racial slurs exist for people of African American heritage.  I shall forgo listing them.

Video ***

Overall, despite some bits of noticeable aging artifacts on the print itself, this is a solid anamorphic transfer from MGM.  Color-wise, it's particularly good, showing off those loud 70's fashions in exemplary style, with a bright, rich, and full ranging palate to work with and no noticeable bleeding or distortions.  I noticed no grain or compression problems at all…again, the only flaws were print related, but even those were not that bad for a picture over 25 years old.  Fans of the film ought to be quite pleased.

Audio **

The 2 channel mono mix is fine…no complaints, no praises.  Dialogue clarity is never an issue, and the music and sound effects come across fine, if a little lacking in dynamic range.

Features **1/2

The disc contains the original trailer (which is a trip), and a commentary track by writer/director Jack Hill, who offers insights not only into this movie, but the entire wave of “blaxploitation” pictures of the early 70's.

Summary:

The tagline says, “Don't mess with Foxy”.  Foxy Brown is a fairly good DVD representation of a cult favorite film, though not necessarily one of the best ones from that time period.  Die hard fans of the genre, however, will no doubt enjoy this disc, as well as others available in MGM's new Soul Cinema DVD collection.