Coffy (1973) – A Review
While she’s off duty from her nursing duties, Coffy (Pam Grier) is a vigilante who’s out for revenge. She’s gunning for the criminals who are pushing dope and dirtying up the city with their criminal activities.
There’s a personal drive behind this violent vendetta Coffy has. She’s looking to find those responsible for her sisters Lubelle’s death. After her Sis got hooked on heroin she overdosed on some bad drugs and now Coffy wants to find the ones who dealt death to her sister.
Seeing the police are no help and the criminals are skirting by the law, she sets out on her own to track down, get close and eliminate the lowlifes who are pushing their drugs on the street.
Sporting funky threads, Coffy masquerades as a high end Jamaican hooker to get in good with pimp King George (Robert DoQui) and begins to move up a chain of sleaze bags to mob boss Arutor Vitroni (Allan Arbus) and even her main man Howard Brunswick (Booker Bradshaw) might even be connected! His run for Congress doesn’t look as wholesome as he told Coffy.
Coffy wants justice – and if no one else is going to go get it, she’ll do it herself! As the tagline to the movie memorably said, “They call her Coffy and she’ll cream you!”
Director Jack Hill and Grier craft one of the most entertaining blaxploitation films of its era and probably my favorite of Grier’s films. Coffy has all that you’d want to see from the genre – Grier is tough and looks fantastic, there’s a lot of groovy music, hip, gaudy 1970s clothing, girl fights, violent deaths, a straight forward, uncomplicated story and a beautiful woman killing boatloads of scummy bad guys all done with an ultra cool, confident style.
The film opens with Grier holding a sawed off shotgun at a drug pusher and saying, “This is the end of your rotten life you mother****er dope pusher.” And then she blows his head off. How can you not want to stay and see more???
Grier…what can you say other than she is assured, looks gorgeous and is captivating. This was her peak. She’s sexy, confident, in control and a total badass when she gets pushed. It’s no wonder why she would become a cinematic icon from her this era. Had she only made Coffy, I think she still would be remembered.
Had another actress been the lead I’m not sure if Coffy would be as entertaining and well remembered as it is. Grier has a real presence whenever she’s onscreen. Whether she’s fighting, seducing or just strutting down the street I can’t help but be mesmerized by her. I am confident I am not alone in this feeling.
What’s fun is how gradual and coincidental Coffy’s tale escalates. Naturally, you’d expect she would face surprising obstacles when she sets out on her mission. Killing off these big powerful pimps and drug lords won’t be a walk in the park. But it’s rather interesting when things do go sideways, she’s resourceful and clever enough to get out of it, even throwing suspicion onto her enemies.
I’m thinking about how the heroin stash of King George’s Coffy manages to sabotage actually becomes a fortuitous tool for her to use when in a tight spot. Or the way she throws blame onto the ignorant King George as ‘the man with the plan’ behind her actions when she’s cornered. The guy is guilty of some stuff, but not for what he ends up taking his final fall for.
There are plenty of fun scenes. Coffy slyly ingratiating herself to King George, while angering his bevy of jealous hookers, which later leads to a knockdown entertaining brawl at a party between Grier and the girls. The brutal execution of King George by deranged Sid Haig. Coffy’s escape from Haig and some corrupt cops on a freeway.
You know the old saying, “The hero is only good as their villains”. Grier is in luck since the pack of baddies in her sights are all devilishly delightful. DoQui with his blasé attitude towards his ladies (and his striking wardrobe!) becomes just as much of a focal point as Grier. I really dig the cool cat!
Arbus is a perfect little weasel man in charge. Haig looks like he’s having the time of his life acting as dastardly as possible. Bradshaw with his cold business-like demeanor. I always loved his final scene with Coffy. He tries to justify his actions and explains that him being partners with the baddies is just a means to an end for the greater good. Plus, he’s her man! She can’t possibly shoot him! Will Coffy be convinced by his explanation?
Of course, fans of Grier will be happy she has no problem showing her assets, but even clothed in bright colored 70’s dresses she still commands the screen.
If you have never seen a Pam Grier film, I think my top recommendation would be Coffy. It might not be the most polished film, but it remains very entertaining and is a true classic of its genre.