Blerd Film Club: Foxy Brown

In 1973 writer and director Jack Hill worked with Pam Grier, a little known actress at the time. The film they created was called Coffy. In the film Grier plays a nurse who is out for revenge. She's looking for the people responsible for her brother's drug overdose. Critics hated the film. It was called childish, wooden and much worse. Despite that, it earned over two million dollars $500,000 budget in a year. Instead of a sequel the two followed it up the next year with a much bigger film. That film was Foxy Brown. I'm usually against trigger warnings, but I'll give you one for this film, there's a lot of sexual assault, a rape and forced drug use, so this isn't for everyone.

Foxy is just your every day woman, almost. Her boyfriend is a government agent. However, he's murdered in the line of duty. Foxy takes it upon herself to track down his killers and make them pay. She links the murder to a drug syndicate. She then follows the clues to a modeling agency run by Steve Ellias and cruel woman named Miss Kathryn.

Foxy discovers it isn't really a modeling agency. It's a front for prostitution. Foxy poses as a prostitute to get more information. She meets another black woman named Claudia there and helps her escape. However Foxy soon finds she's back to prostituting, this time at a lesbian bar. Foxy goes to get her, with a small scuffle. She helps her detox from her drug addiction. She then reunites the woman with her husband and child.

Foxy is soon discovered. Not because she was sloppy with her work, but because her own brother told on her. Foxy pays her brother Steve a visit and threatens to kill him, but only shoots him before leaving. She plans to take down Kathryn but is outnumbered and forced to run. She's captured during her escape. Miss Kathryn taunts her and the two promise to kill each other. Kathryn decides she's going to force Foxy into a life of prostitution. To break her will she injects Foxy with a dose of heroin.

Kathryn sends Foxy to a farm where her henchmen are to "break her in." Foxy attempts to escape and is captured with a whip. They tie her to the bed and once again inject her with heroin. This time Foxy is raped. Once the high comes down, Foxy uses a razor blade to cut her bindings. Shen then slices off the face of one of her rapists, then burns them both alive along with the farm.

When Miss Kathryn learns this, she sends Steve to kill Foxy. Steve tracks down Foxy's brother and attempts to get more information from him. When he can't he murders him and his wife. Foxy goes to a Black Panther by the name of Black Caesar (who has his own films). She wants justice, not just for her but all the black people Kathryn has harmed. They capture Steve and cut off his genitals while he's still alive, before leaving him.

Foxy breaks into Kathryn's home. There she is stopped by two guards. She delivers a package to Kathryn. It's a jar holding Steve's genitals, so she can remember him. Foxy then kills the two guards with a pistol hidden in her afro. To finish it, she shoots Kathryn in the arm because she wants her to suffer since death is too good for her.

I enjoy Blaxploitation films. I recognize them for the mixed bag they are. On one hand they are purely exploitative. They play on stereotypes, racial tropes and unequally portray black people as pimps, prostitutes, drug dealers and addicts. On the opposite side, they've provided starting grounds for dozens of black people in front and behind the camera. Despite the stereotypical characters many of them do have enjoyable stories.

Foxy Brown is special because even in Blaxploitation, there aren't a lot of bad ass women. Off the top of my head Sugar Hill and Coffy are the only other films I can think of right away. Watching Foxy just beat the crap out of pimps and racists but also using her wits was just awesome. Pam Grier is amazing, and has at least one bad ass character in every decade. It doesn't matter if she's Foxy Brown, Jackie Brown or Amanda Waller.

In 1959 the United Kingdom actually banned the film. The reason for this is simply sex and violence. The film did escape being prosecuted for the Obscene Publications Act. While this act is still active, it's fallen off from over 600 cases a year to just 35 in 2005. Technically, the film is still banned but the law isn't enforced except in extreme situations.

Pam Grier's portrayal of Foxy ushered in a new wave of films with bad ass black women. Even if they weren't the main characters, they were there kicking ass now. Despite this, the film received a lot of backlash from feminist groups. The reason for that is because they felt Foxy was too sexualized and violent. Despite that Pam Grier stood by the portrayal stating "female power is different from male power and a woman should always maintain it."

Despite the backlash other groups, mostly black women praised the portrayal. The idea that a black woman is able to have a shootout, burn racists alive, kick ass then put on a night gown all without messing up her hair did appeal to a lot of women that weren't necessarily accepted in mainstream feminism at the time. The film also has many references to Angela Davis. On one occasion Foxy states she wants justice for all our people, not just black men. A quote Angela Davis was known for.

Foxy Brown brings a lot of different thoughts to people who watch the film. I think Foxy is a bad ass. Some people think she's a sexual object. Others feel she lacks femininity. There's a different opinion for every minute of the film. That doesn't change the fact that it's a major part of cinema history. If not for the film itself, then for the critical thinking that it forces.

Download a free copy of Darrell's book Phantasmagoricalread some of his other work at and hear him on the Powerbomb Jutsu Podcast
Blerd Film Club: Foxy Brown Blerd Film Club: Foxy Brown Reviewed by Blerds Online on Friday, February 22, 2019 Rating: 5

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.