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A sexy 70’s screen icon who broke ground by being neither male nor white, she inspired a rap artist and one Quentin Tarantino who tailored his Elmore Leonard adaptation Rum Punch to, and even changed the name of its lead character for, one particular character. That woman was Pam Grier; that character was Foxy Brown...

Foxy Brown
Foxy Brown is one tough cookie in the neighbourhood. A dab hand with a revolver she hopes never to use in anger and with a mean left hook to boot, Foxy looks out for the brothers and sisters on her patch. First and foremost is her flesh and blood brother Link (Fargas), whom Foxy has made to drop the drug business and go legit.

She also stands by her man, undercover operative Dalton Ford (Terry Carter) who’s prepared to accede to the extreme step of faking his own death and embracing appearance-altering plastic surgery in an effort to testify against local narcotics kingpin Katherine Wall (Katheryn Loder) and clean up the area. However, Link finds the straight and narrow a difficult path to tread, despite his slick sister bailing him out for the umpteenth time. When he unravels the mystery of Foxy’s apparently new male companion, Link figures he can get a foothold in the big time with the financial reward for the exclusive on his hot information.

As Ford is swiftly and successfully silenced, Foxy becomes fuelled by rage and revenge. Seeking to eliminate Wall’s illegal drug and vice empire from within, she infiltrates the high-class call girl ring that sees her righting wrongs among all levels of white society on her way to a showdown across the border in Mexico.

Foxy Brown
Foxy Brown is fun, irreverent and hip for all the same reasons that it is clunky, kitsch and dated. The Maurice Binder style opening credits in which Grier gurns and gyrates elevates Foxy to pseudo-superheroine status, simultaneously rendering the violence cartoonish and the social commentary as thin as any Bond movie. The fact that the film grinds through unnecessary exposition to establish Dalton Ford’s backstory only for Foxy’s brother Link to see through his reconstructed facial features and Michael Anderson identity when meeting him for the first time is an indication of the throwaway plot.

Of course, what was so fresh at the time now grates. Substituting one set of prejudicial racial stereotypes for another is less like liberation, more like repeating the same mistakes of the previous exclusive hegemony. From sex-crazed spluttering rednecks to an arrogant educated middle class to the aged bigotry of the judiciary, there isn’t a single sympathetic white character on show. Not only this, Hispanics and lesbians come in for their fare share of caricature too. That said, it’s still rare to see an African-American character, even less a female one, take on all comers and come out on top. Indeed, the crude characterisation is unabashedly effective in pitting Foxy against absolutely everyone else on and off the mean streets.

Grier is crucial to Foxy’s success, both in terms of the narrative and in a wider iconic sense. Chopping, kicking, shooting and undressing her way to success, Foxy makes full use of all her available and ample weapons but Grier is able to underscore the titillating aspects necessitated by her director with glints of her real acting ability to render her alter ego much more tragically grounded in an overblown plot than was ever possible for Tamara Dobson in the similarly themed Cleopatra Jones.

Foxy Brown
Aside from Grier, performances range from the laconic (Sid Haig as a crusty pilot) to the bizarre (Peter Brown as right hand man ‘Steve’) to the positively barking (Katheryn Loder). Snagging all the best lines, mention should be made too of Antonio Fargas, of course better known as Huggy Bear, whose performance is only a little push across the other side of the law from his Starsky And Hutch> character.

Toss in the de rigeur ‘fly’ couture of flares, flowered shirts and some mighty medallions with Willie Hutch’s funkadelic score (less well worn than other contemporary efforts by Isaac Hayes or James Brown) and Foxy Brown is one slick Blaxploitation flick.

As part of their ‘Soul Cinema’ selection, MGM have served up a bright, warm but slightly soft transfer. Slight grain is present during all the night sequences but contrast and detail levels are very good when considering Fargas’ slinky silk-based wardrobe. Colours are strong and well served during the painfully garish credit sequence but this serves to highlight most of the scratches and white flecks that remain on what is not a pristine master. These are perhaps to be expected on a print of this age and certainly it’s difficult to imagine this film looking better elsewhere.

Foxy Brown
Like the rest in this range, the main audio track is the original English mono recording and as such limited tracks go it’s not too shabby at all. Gunshots crackle, the plane’s propeller cuts a decent swoosh, Willie Hutch’s tinkly boogie-funk score is neither too tinny nor too fat with bass and the jive talkin’ is always distinct in amongst everything that’s being pumped out of the centre speaker.

A single trailer is yer lot on the special features front. A contemporary piece, the trailer sets up the film neatly, tripping off most of Foxy’s quips, to leave the audience in no doubt as to what to expect from the movie.

The menus are something of a missed opportunity for those who enjoy the flavour of their chosen film to feed through into the various option selections. Crying out to be animated or scored with some of those priceless funk riffs, the static menus are nevertheless themed in the same style as the opening credits with big bold colours and a kitsch text font.

Foxy Brown
It was never going to win Academy awards, nor was it ever designed to do so. Pam Grier’s seminal 1970’s revenge movie is all about getting African-Americans into the driving seat and in this is succeeds very well.

Presented on a sufficient MGM disc that never attempts to breach the ‘average’ barrier, fans of old school cool are advised to snap up this one right away but the more casual cat might wish to wait until the inevitable sales come around before letting go of the green.