One of the breakout hits from the controversial blaxploitation era, Jack Hill’s Foxy Brown (1974) (alongside Coffy from the previous year) helped solidify the then 25-year-old Pam Grier’s reputation as the queen of that since mythologised sub-genre. Producing a new transfer which retains that grainy, tangible feel of the original film stock, cult specialists Arrow Video brings yet another trash classic to the small screen, which acts as a perfect primer for newcomers to this series of films, and also offers a treat for long-time fans eager for their beloved heroine to receive the high definition treatment.
An early female embodiment of the ‘roaring rampage of revenge’ action films which are now fully ingrained in pop culture, Foxy Brown features a spirited and committed performance from its lead. Foxy is tough yet principled chick, who is forced to infiltrate a high-class escort service to seek revenge on the owners (who also run a large dope-ring) when her federal agent boyfriend is murdered (after an initial tip-off from her own brother). Her mission soon becomes compromised, however, and Foxy has to rely on both her womanly wiles and fighting spirit in order to survive and prevail. Watching Foxy Brown, you can imagine a young VHS-loving Quentin Tarantino’s fervent cinematic mind going into overdrive upon seeing it.
Much of the film’s charm lies in the fact that it isn’t some kind of souped-up, homage-heavy recreation of that scuzzy, drive-in-style cinema. This is the real deal, and while it may be a little rough around the edges (the aesthetic at times is akin to an R-rated episode of The Rockford Files) it makes for a fun and enlightening sociological snapshot of that time. Director Hill also manages to work in some astute commentary on black identity of the 70s.
The disadvantaged lifestyle frustrations felt by Foxy’s weasely, small-time drug dealer brother (Starsky and Hutch’s Antonio Fargas) leads to his traitorous behaviour, yet his actions are completely in vain, as he’s chained to his drug dependency and his customary criminal ways. Unlike some of the other blaxploitation titles from that time, Foxy Brown is more than just a curio piece. That’s partly down to its iconic lead, but it’s also due to a strong feminist attitude which exists within that riotous, eager-to-entertain, exploitation framework.