Monday, February 16, 2009

Film Review: COFFY (1973, Jack Hill)

Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 91 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Pam Grier, Robert DoQui (ROBOCOP), Sid Haig, Alan Arbus, Brooker Bradshaw.
Tag-lines: "The Baddest One-Chick Hit-Squad that ever hit town!"
Best one-liner(s): "I go away for half an hour for you to turn a trick... and I come back and find you ballin' some niggah bitch! You WHITE TRAMP!"

A car door opens. A man emerges. He's wearing a goldenrod one-piece jumpsuit, revealing most of his chest. He has a ridiculous silver belt buckle, a gold-encrusted cane, a maroon felt fedora, a pointy collar, gold chains, a cape, ginormous sunglasses, and a 'stache.

No one has EVER looked more like a pimp. Suddenly, a song: "King George! He's a pimp!" It's perhaps the most blatant case of 'stating the obvious' in film history. And Jack Hill's COFFY manages to do it with a completely straight face. With no irony, no 'wink and a nod.' And THAT is why COFFY works, in a nutshell. Pam Grier is a force of nature, and she gives this film its ferocious, untamable energy. COFFY is one wild sprint through L.A.'s underworld with beatings, verbal barbs, catfights, and "B*tch, I'll cut you's." COFFY's got it all: ridiculous tag-lines ("Coffy- she'll cream you!," "No one sleeps when they mess with Coffy!"), broken-bottle fights, lesbian prostitutes, one-eyed villains (see also: Hill's SWITCHBLADE SISTERS), over-the-top racists (who get theirs, of course), completely low-rent sets, Sid Haig as a vicious hoodlum, and Pam Grier doing a laughable Jamaican accent (while undercover). It's got all this, and then it's got a serious social message, too.

The revenge-seeking Coffy is forced to confront a crooked black congressional candidate who makes an impassioned plea to save his life- "Black people want dope, and brown people want dope, and as long as there people are deprived of a decent life, they'll settle for anything to just plain feel good with." He argues that his nefarious doings are part of a larger, positive social agenda. But is he to be believed? That's up to Coffy. And because the filmmakers were earnest (see also: the blaxploitation scene in Hill's SWINGING CHEERLEADERS), COFFY actually carries some weight. Four stars.

-Sean Gill

COMING SOON: Reviews of Jack Hill's SWITCHBLADE SISTERS and THE SWINGING CHEERLEADERS.

2 comments:

Jack said...

Thank you for your kind comments. May your blog have many readers!
==Jack Hill

Sean Gill said...

Thank you for the kind words! Your films have been a tremendous influence on my work, particularly a play I wrote and am putting up in New York this May, entitled Go-Go Killers!