Foxy Brown
U.S.A. / 1974
Directed by Jack Hill
Pam Grier
Terry Carter
Sid Haig
Color / 91 Minutes / R
Format: DVD (R1 - NTSC)
MGM Home Entertainment
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    6   10 = Highest Rating  
Guest Review by Rod Barnett
With a career stretching over 30 years Pam Grier has proven herself one of the most durable of movie actors. Starting in jungle/prison and blaxploitation films in the 1970s, her beauty and talent were obvious but she was unfortunately never able to parley her success in low-budget action flicks into the next level of Hollywood stardom. Part of the reason for this is that roles for black women in film have always been scarce but I've often wondered if another reason for her career's stagnation might be the type of woman she played. Strong, powerful, intelligent women who can handle any situation were her forte and be it bedroom or battleground, Grier's characters showed the same ability to come out on top every time. Certainly, playing the same kind of role repeatedly has typecast many actors but it must've been tough for a black woman seen only as an action star to maintain a career. Luckily for us she did, proving her staying power and talent with the title role in 1997's Jackie Brown. In a better world this is the kind of role she would be offered every day of her life. I must confess that as a young boy I fell in love with Pam Grier long before I was ever able to see one of her films. As a lad of 8 or 9 I saw a trailer for one of her films on television and was simply captivated. I only saw the trailer once or twice (it may have been for Friday Foster) but it lingered in my memory and fantasies for a long time. So when I was finally able to see her in Coffy years later I realized that my imagination had built her into something that no person could ever hope to equal. But it slowly dawned on me that what was there on screen was even better. She was a real flesh and blood firebrand. And as Antonio Fargas says in Foxy Brown, "She’s a whole lotta woman!"
    Grier plays the title role of Foxy Brown and as the picture begins, she's waiting for her boyfriend Dalton Ford (Terry Carter) to get out of the hospital. He's a retired federal agent undergoing facial plastic surgery after a failed two-year long undercover assignment. On his release he and Foxy plan to move away and start a new life together. Unfortunately, when Foxy's drug dealing brother Link (Antonio Fargas) is introduced to Ford under the new name of Michael Anderson, the new face doesn't fool him. Link is in deep trouble with the local drug lord for losing several thousand dollars of smack and he uses his information about Ford/Anderson to erase the debt. Faster than you can say lead sandwich, the beloved boyfriend is shot dead and Foxy is beating names out of little brother so she can exact a giant sized measure of vengeance. From Link she learns that the head of the criminal organization is a woman (!) named Katherine Wall (Kathryn Loder), who uses a modeling agency as a cover for both a high priced call-girl service and drug running. Ms. Brown infiltrates the call-girl ring but after helping one of the unwilling prostitutes escape to be with her family, Foxy is captured. Raped, tortured and injected with heroin Foxy still manages to brutally fight her way clear only to learn of her brother's sorry fate. Realizing she must take down the entire gang, she enlists a group of black vigilantes to join her crusade, setting up the violent and bloody endgame.
    Originally conceived as a sequel to Coffy, this film's success cemented Grier's stardom and put director Jack Hill in a position to get more of his ideas on screen without interference. The film has many charms but I have to agree with Hill that it isn't nearly as good as Coffy. In the great commentary track for this DVD Hill laments the fact that the studio was not willing to increase the budget even though they had to pay Grier and himself a higher salary than before. The budget was set at $500,000 and that meant less money was available for sets, effects and other actors. Still, Hill and his crew were able to pull together a solid crime movie that holds up very well nearly 30 years later. The director admits that he had very little time to write the script but feels the pressure brought out some good things. Calling filmmaking foremost a collaborative effort, he is very clear in assigning credit for elements of the film that came from others; he seems to take pride in heaping praise on his cast. He also explains why he's never taken the credit 'A Jack Hill Film' for any of his work. I admire his modesty and generosity when speaking of his coworkers. The commentary track is packed with abundant information and almost never lags. He's forthright about the film's flaws and I found myself agreeing with many of his criticisms, none more so than the ridiculous number of different outfits that Pam wears throughout the picture. It often seems that she changes clothes each time she enters a new room! One of the joys of this type of film is seeing how the creators construct their story to get you on the protagonist's side. In Foxy Brown Hill creates some wonderfully nasty villains in the cold blooded but codependent Walls and her lover/crime partner Steve Elias (Peter Brown). Elias is cruel and vicious throughout the film but, in a touch I've always found realistic, his hands shake almost uncontrollably on his shotgun when he confronts Link. Hill was always good about including these kinds of little individual moments that make the stories just a bit more believable. Of course, Elias' punishment is suitably harsh and goes a long way toward illustrating my observation that in a Jack Hill film, the bad guys always have the maximum amount of pain inflicted on them while the hero coolly looks on in satisfaction.

MGM's DVD of Foxy Brown is a strong improvement over the old VHS in my collection. The film looks and sounds very good with little or no visual or audio problems and seems very well preserved for such a low-budget film. (Thank goodness!) The movie is letterboxed at approximately 1.85:1 and appears well framed; only a couple of moments seem a little tight. Besides the commentary track from Hill the only other extra is the theatrical trailer. But don't feel cheated. The commentary is very good and serves as a better extra than some more 'loaded' discs can boast. Foxy Brown isn't the best film Hill or Grier ever made but it's a damned fun movie and well worth seeing for yourself. 3/26/03