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MGM Studios DVD presents
"That's my sister, baby. And she's a whole lot of woman."
DVD ReviewFrom our perspective, it's hard to watch Foxy Brown and not imagine a younger Quentin Tarantino doing the same, killing time at the video store, trying to find someone to read a script from his trunk full of screenplays, his jaw dropping open in wonder—this may be his magic movie, the movie he wished he had made. (Look at Jackie Brown, his homage to this film and its star, if you have any doubts about that.) This isn't a great or a classic movie, that's for sure; some of the acting is very bad, it was clearly made on the cheap, and the technical elements are pretty sloppy. But Pam Grier had an undeniable movie star magnetism, and, coming after decades of African-American actors being cast only as maids and porters, it's a historical document with a certain amount of style.
Grier plays the title character, a good woman in a bad world; her phone rings, and it's her brother, Link, in the proverbial wrong place at the wrong time. He's $20,000 in debt to some local drug dealers, and needs Foxy to come bail him out. She does, and soon visits the hospital, where her boyfriend, an undercover narc, is about to get the bandages off of his face after some elaborate plastic surgery—someone blew his cover, and now he's in some serious danger. Foxy's brother fingers his sister's girlfriend to the drug lords; unpleasantness and revenge ensues.
So the plot is about as warmed over as you could imagine; it's not really the point, though. The 1970s fashions are pretty outrageous, huge hair, bell bottoms, garish colors; no doubt what we're wearing today will look just as foolish to those looking back at us thirty years from now. (Just the throwaway dialogue alone is of museum quality: "You dig?" "Right on, brother.") Prominently featured in the film as well, almost more than the clothes and the story, are Pam Grier's breasts. Whether clad in a bikini top or bra, or unveiled, they are the principal subject of director Jack Hill's camera; the movie comes by its R rating rightfully. Grier frequently has the wooden quality of actors you find in Andy Warhol's movies; she isn't given much to work with, despite some obvious intentions to turn her into a black female James Bond. And she's probably the best one here—the loopily cheesy acting is best exemplified by Katheryn Wall, as a whore-running drug dealer, whose eyes pop out of her head, and who makes Joan Crawford look like a model of Actors Studio restraint. Her wardrobe advice to her girls includes: "The material should cling to the breast, so the nipples show through." She got so much class, she don't know what to do with it all.
But there's a lot of stuff here that's pretty daring, even by today's standards, including a brawl in a lesbian bar, and two black hookers humiliating a pathetic old white john because of the size of his equipment. (He's sort of got it coming, not just for hiring call girls, but for hanging out with guys who, when the ladies arrive, say such tasteful things as: "That's an awful lot of chocolate for one man.") Political correctness obviously isn't the order of the day; and as blaxploitation movies go, this is a reasonably entertaining one. More than anything, it's a reminder that the many talented African-American actors continue to be underutilized; Halle Berry is planning to star in a remake of this movie; it's another instance of Hollywood studios demonstrating a lack of imagination and creativity in reaching out to African-American audiences. (But if the relevant portions of Ms. Berry's anatomy are as on display in the new version as Ms. Grier's were in the original, the studio will be in clover.)
Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C
Image Transfer Review: This is a pretty sloppy transfer of a cheaply made film; it shows, with discolorations and an inconsistent palette, and lots of scratches and debris. It's got that flat '70s feel, though, that's for sure.
Image Transfer Grade: C-
Audio Transfer Review: The audio is of no better quality than the image, and in some scenes, you can hear some seriously bad looping. Dialogue is generally audible and understandable, though.
Audio Transfer Grade: C
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Jack Hill
Extras Review: Writer-director Jack Hill provides a commentary track, and while it has more than its fair share of blank patches, he sounds like a nice man, with fond memories of the film, which was originally intended as a sequel to Coffy, the first picture he made with Pam Grier. He fought his leading lady about her wardrobe; she won out, and it may now be the most memorable aspect of the picture. Also, he mentions at least three times that he's recently watched the film with a French audience. Save your Jerry Lewis jokes; Hill reports that they laughed in all the right places.
Extras Grade: C
Final CommentsGet your groove on and head back to the 1970s for some low-rent fun, blaxploitation style.
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