"Who was that?" asks one character after encountering Foxy Brown.
The character's boyfriend, Link, clutches himself and replies: "That was my sister, baby, and she's a whole lotta woman."
Link, you said a mouthful. Foxy Brown is none other than Pam Grier, queen of the exploitation flick. This film is arguably the most famous film in Pam's repetoire, and was directed by the inimitable Jack Hill. If Pam is the queen of exploitation cinema, Jack is the king. His efforts include the Big Bird Cage, Coffy, and Switchblade Sisters.
We are introduced to Foxy through her drug-dealing brother, Link (Antonio Fargas), who is in debt to the mob for twenty grand. Though Foxy disapproves of his lifestyle, she understands the difficulties of being a black man, especially as explained in a terrific speech by Fargas. ("What am I supposed to do with all this ambition?") She helps him out of a tight spot and puts him up at her house until things cool down.
Pam Grier and Terry Carter
compare fashion don'ts.
Meanwhile, Foxy's man, Michael (Terry "Battlestar Galactica" Carter), is getting out of the hospital after a face change. Luckily, they were able to squeeze him in between two of Michael Jackson's sessions. Michael (not Jackson, but the one getting lucky with Foxy) was once a federal agent working undercover to bust the local mob -- the same mob for whom Link works -- and when the sting went sour, Michael "disappeared." Now he's about to start a new life with his main squeeze. Michael, feeling useless, considers joining the local "neighborhood association," which has its own methods of running drug dealers out of town.
Michael: Vigilante justice? I don't know...
Foxy: It's as American as apple pie!
Unfortunately, Link manages to recognize Michael for his old self, and promptly sells him out to reconcile his own debts. Mere minutes later, Michael is bleeding in Foxy's arms, and our story really gets started. Foxy begins a one-woman crusade to bring down the evil whiteys who corrupted her brother and killed her lover.
Okay, who filmed W. C. Fields' dreams?
This is obviously a situation ripe for exploitation, and boy does Hill exploit it. He introduces whole sequences that have nothing to do with anything, just to give the audience the sex and violence it wants. Foxy Brown is the kind of film where you just know that the main character will have to go undercover as a hooker.
Perhaps the most gratuitious sequence in the film has to do with one of Foxy's friends, who, though she is supposed to be laying low (people need to "lay low" often in Foxy's world), wanders into a lesbian bar and Foxy has to get her out. This lesbian bar needs to be seen to believed. All of the women dress like teamsters, only more macho. And in a wonderful endorsement of equal rights, these female bar patrons are just as violent, rude, and prone to fight over nothing as any beer-belching men.
The greatest attribute of any Jack Hill film is that it is always a little bit better than you expect. Or better than it should be, considering the subject matter. Jack Hill had a real talent for writing characters who may be scummy and even amoral, but strangely sympathetic. Plus, he gives his characters memorable dialogue. In the aforementioned lesbian bar scene, one rough character tries to intimidate Foxy by claiming to be a black belt in karate. Foxy decks her with a piece of furniture and responds, "I've got a black belt in barstools!" Foxy exits the bar soon thereafter, leaving chaos behind.
At gunpoint, Martin Short sings selections
from I, Pagliacci.
Exiting scenes after stirring up trouble is something of a habit for Grier's character: in one scene, she leaves a high-profile judge in public with his pants down. Later, she busts up a drug deal with a borrowed airplane and speeds away to catch up to one of the dealers. In yet another scene, she runs away from a pair of kidnappers, one of them disfigured by her makeshift weapon, the other burned in a gas fire. Everyone who meets this woman is changed by the encounter.
There can be no happy ending for Foxy Brown, however; she has already lost those things which would have made her life complete. All she can achieve now is "justice," which, as the neighborhood association reminds her, is a fancy name for revenge. But attain it she must, and the gang of crime-hating toughs (a favorite device of Hill's, as seen in Switchblade Sisters) helps her to her goal. We get a few laughs along the way (as when Foxy hides her pistol in her afro), but we know the film is a tragedy as she walks out on the last gangster, once again leaving all behind her in ruins.
The rarely seen Wicked Witch of
the East Compton area.