My favorite film of 1997 was “Jackie Brown”, and watching this earlier Pam Grier vehicle makes me appreciate even more Quentin Tarantino’s picture. I love exploitation flicks, especially blaxploitation, but even I got to admit that these films are often cheap and inept. What they do have is a lot of attitude, ultraviolence, gratuitous sex scenes, terrific style and the best music you could dream of. Well, Tarantino put all that great stuff in his Jackie Brown, but he also added a great script, assured direction and superior acting. Hence, looking back at films like “Shaft” or “Superfly”, you kinda pity the lack of production values, yet these films are still incredibly entertaining. And if they’re not always expressed all that well, there are some interesting thoughts in these films. “Coffy” in particular is a surprisingly well written and directed feature that has things to say. By itself, the action of making a film about Blacks for Blacks already has worth (in 73, at least). And if you pay attention, you can find some thought-provoking dialogue amongst the shoot-outs and the whore scenes. The main theme in Coffy seems to be that the reason why Blacks often sink into crime, drugs and so on is that the oppressing white society doesn’t give them enough opportunities, and Lord knows that can be true.
But I won’t kid anyone: what the film is really about is Pam Grier getting back at the people who are screwing with her. She plays Coffy, a bittersweet nurse who loses her cool when she learns that a drug dealer has been feeding smack to her young sister, who freaked out and had to be put in a rehabilitation center. That’s oughta piss off Coffy, and she’ll do anything she can to get back to these damn dirty pimps, pushers and mobsters. This is truly one of the most satisfying revenge movies I’ve seen. It’s a real treat to watch Pam Grier administrating some justice around with a shotgun. Writer-director Jack Hill is not exactly Scorsese, but there is some interesting ideas in his script, as well as a lot of cool dialogue. The film’s exploitation, but it’s rather well crafted. And anyway, no matter how you craft it, most of the stuff in the film already kicks ass. I dig the cars, the afros and the pimpwear, and the sets are real cool. And like all blaxploitation pictures, the film is packed with amazing music (Tarantino actually used the “Coffy” score in Jackie Brown).
One of the most surprising things in Coffy is how well acted it is. The whole cast is not only sharp and fun but also believable. And man, are the characters cool! There’s Carter, the honest cop who used to date Coffy; her present boyfriend, Brunswick, a black politician running for congress; King George, a pimp as phat as it gets; Vitroni, a perverted Italian gangster from Vegas. And what about Pam Grier! No matter how whack the film can be, she’s still radiant. She truly is a born star. She has this really grounded, take-no-shit persona that’s rare in actresses. She spends the films shooting people and getting into catfights, when she’s not posing as a whore and showing off her gorgeous body. If only for Grier’s performance, “Coffy” is a must see.