While I remember blaxploitation films from the 70s, I never actually saw one until recently. Coffy is a movie that (despite its obviously dated fashions and music, which in a sense, add to its cool), in my opinion, holds up as well as any revenge film made. The current political climate simply adds to its relevance.
Basically, the main character is a nurse with the last name “Coffin”, but she goes by the nickname “Coffy”. (Hey, would you want to be cared for in the hospital by Nurse Coffin?) And, in the part, we see the promise of what’s to come from the amazing Pam Grier.
When her younger sister OD’s on smack, Coffy is determined to find the responsible parties and make ’em pay. So she pretends to be a prostitute looking for a fix, finds a drug pusher and mob boss, then kills them. And that’s just for starters.
Unfortunately, her straight-arrow police officer friend is beaten by thugs, one of whom comes within a hair’s breadth of raping Coffy, providing an excellent opportunity to display Grier’s … magnificent assets, shall we say? 🙂
In fact, quite a bit of the film involves much breast-baring by various women at various times. It was the 70s. You could flash boobs with impunity on film, but not TV, unless it was PBS. But show a guy’s junk … and risk an X-rating? Hell, no.
Times were different then. And yet they remain way too similar. This gives a movie with a distinctly 70s vibe genuine resonance for the 2020s.
Anyway, I don’t want to spoil it for you, but Coffy continues to hunt for assholes. Not all of them white, but mostly working for them. It turns into one of the most awesome revenge-fueled killing sprees in cinema history.
If that sounds kinda twisted, you might feel differently when you see Pam Grier going toe-to-toe with the mob and the drug lords of L.A. She is everything a strong female lead should be — vulnerable, imperfect, strong, capable, determined, and resourceful. She is Wonder Woman without the superpowers — just pure grit. For its time, having a strong, black (and professional) female action protagonist was absolutely groundbreaking.
It is pretty easy to see why actor-screenwriter-director Quentin Tarantino likes Grier and how she ended up playing Jackie Brown. In fact, it’s easy to see where QT draws some of his own inspiration.
This film was supposed to have a sequel, but that got scrapped in favor of making Foxy Brown. Now, I gotta see that one!
PS: For what it’s worth (and according to Wikipedia), Roger Ebert gave the movie two out of four stars, praising the film and calling Grier an actress of “beautiful face and astonishing form” with a unique “physical life” missing from other attractive actresses. I’m not so sure others weren’t out there, so much as they weren’t utilized in that way. And Gene Siskel gave the film zero stars, calling it “a stupid movie” with a “wooden performance” from Grier. Figures. I never liked the bald one.
And here’s the trailer: