Farrah Fawcett, Lynda Carter, Caroline Munro – fine ladies to be sure, but when it comes to action babes of the 1970s, there’s none finer than Pam Grier. Beautiful and statuesque, but as happy using her fists as her looks to get her own way, Grier took her first lead in exploitation auteur Jack Hill’s terrific 1973 film Coffy. Foxy Brown was Hill’s follow-up a year later, and if not as good as Coffy, it still featured another dynamic Grier performance as a tough-talking woman out for revenge after her fella is murdered by a drug gang.
Foxy doesn’t seem to have a job, but what she does have is the love of a good man – undercover federal agent Dalton Ford (Terry Carter). Dalton is forced to change his face and name after his cover is blown, although Foxy doesn’t seem to mind (and as he reminds her, "my most important part is still the same!"). The couple pledge to settle down, leaving the dangerous life behind. However, Foxy’s errant brother Link (a pre-Starsky & Hutch Antonio Fargas) owes some $20,000 to the drug gang Dalton infiltrated and in an attempt to clear his debts, exposes Dalton’s new identity. Pretty soon, poor old Dalt is dead in the ground, and Foxy has just one thing on her mind – vengeance.
Jack Hill was always a much better writer/director than most of his exploitation peers, and if his films were often formulaic they were never boring, and frequently laugh-out-loud funny. Foxy Brown has got some great lines ("I’ve got a black belt in bar stools!" snarls Grier after twatting one butch lady during a hilarious lesbian bar punch-up), memorably dubious characters and plenty of suitably immoral behaviour. The evil drug runners are particularly amusing – in keeping with the film’s Girl Power theme, they’re led by the intensely unnerving Katheryn Loder, and are as idiotic a collection of goons as you’re likely to find. Other male characters – a corrupt judge, lecherous drug trafficker, the loathsome Link – are deeply unimpressive examples of their gender and are quickly kicked into touch by the no-nonsense Foxy. The single decent bloke is Dalton, and look what happens to him!
Other than Grier, Fargas is the only actor to make much of an effort – Terry Carter may have found regular work a few years later on Battlestar Galactica, but he’s pretty wooden here, while the rest of the cast are stock villains/cops/hookers. The film lacks Coffy’s moral ambiguity, but it’s hard not to cheer when Foxy enlists the help of a vigilante gang with a rousing speech about keeping the streets safe, or when she whips a pistol from her afro to nonchalantly blow away her adversaries. Go girl!