Director: Jack Hill
In the 1970s, in the days before political correctness sanitised everything for our protection, there was a very popular, very violent subgenre nicknamed blaxploitation, literally black exploitation. Started by films such as Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song and Shaft (both from 1971), blaxploitation pictures featured heavy doses of stylised sex and violence, usually set in gritty urban centres, with strong black leading characters. Coffy represents one of the most popular blaxploitation films and helped to establish Pam Grier as the queen of the genre.
This film is violent, misogynistic, and racist (some would argue). In our current culture of political correctness, Coffy represents a guilty pleasure, a look back at a time when films weren’t worried about offending anyone (though I imagine Coffy would offend many people, even in the 1970s). Pam Grier as Coffy kicks a lot of ass and kills a lot of drug dealers in her pursuit of revenge on the pushers who hooked her sister on junk.
Granted, this film isn’t a masterpiece. The acting is bad (Pam Grier’s Jamaican accent is laughable) and there are gaping plot holes, but Coffy is a lot of fun. Grier’s charisma and presence carry the film; it’s no wonder she went on to have a long and successful career. Sid Haig, most recently seen in Rob Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects, is very effective as a creepy thug, an archetype he returns to several times in the blaxploitation cycle.
Though exploitative and sensational, Coffy is an entertaining action film, worth seeing for Pam Grier’s performance alone.Colin Le Sueur