(mx) wrote: Blaxploitation is so synonymous with the persona of Pam Grier that the subgenere may as well be dubbed as worthless trash when without her. Let's face it: blaxploitation flicks are trash, nudie cuties stirred up with drug violence and gang warfare without enough acumen to make for anything besides low, low, art. For the most part, they consist of a few ticklish one-liners, a myriad of boob flashes, and a hell of a lot of gun shots, cocaine snorts, and shag carpets. Today, we're fond of their terribleness. They remind us of a time when films could be sleazy and unapologetic, bulletproof to critics because they catered to audiences looking for skin, slaughter, and post-Motown blackness. But Pam Grier doesn't, and never did, disappear into the background noise of better films. As of this moment, you probably can't remember what Tamara Dobson ("Cleopatra Jones") looked like, how Ron O'Neal ("Superfly") sounded when he was high on movie coke - but I guarantee that, in ten years, Grier will still be hanging around in your psyche, personifying the ever elusive film femme that was strong and scrappy but also feminine and sensitive. As Roger Ebert reminded us in his original review of 1973's "Coffy", Grier essentially reversed the stereotypes strung together by the majority of blaxploitation thrillers. Most gave the man the duty to save the day while the love interest waited around in bed until he finally fixed things up and had time to make some water bedded love. But Grier, or perhaps, writer/director Jack Hill, in an honorably feminist mood, asked a question most left untouched: what would happen if the woman saved the day, and didn't need a man to survive in a cold, hard world of drugs, cash, and hookers? As "Coffy" opens, its titular matron is pissed. Kills two drug pushers with a shotgun pissed. Is willing to slaughter more criminals pissed. Smacking the blood on her lips pissed. Why? Her sweet little sister, apparently not as precious as she thought, has destroyed her sacred life with laced heroin, laying sick and immobile in a hospital that would rather get rid of her than help her out. Coffy wanted her young sibling to have dreams, to dance, to let her hair down in a wholesome, Doris Day kind of way. So when those hopes are diminished, she decides to get revenge on the drug mavens who gave her the goods in the first place. After violent confrontations continue on in a vicious cycle, she finally sets her sights on crime lord King George (Robert Duqui), who seems to be behind all the street crud that has sabotaged her life. And when it turns out that her congressman boyfriend (Booker Bradshaw) also has a part in the corruption, she figures she may as well throw caution to the wind and go all out. Grier can do it all: she's a terrific actress, as much of a presence as the mainstream broads that, more than once, stole her thunder, and she's a worthy exhibitionist, proud of her extremely (extremely) curvaceous body and more than happy to flaunt it. But she isn't much like a Russ Meyer girl with busty proportions and not much else - she is so commanding in her sexual prowess that, like Nicki Minaj (I'm going out on a limb here), we find ourselves as much titillated by her presence as we are unsure how to react to it. For Grier (and Coffy), sex is a weapon, and she knows how to use it. But Grier isn't so dependent on her chest that she forgets to act; she really and truly knows what the hell she is doing and makes "Coffy"'s lame dialogue suddenly seem like urban Shakespeare. Other actors in the room don't even try to give Hill's lazy writing any sort of life; Grier, though, pretends she's reciting something the Academy would give notice to. She makes Coffy a superbly memorable character, not just for her physical presence but also for her craftiness, her sincere, empathetic hatred for the men that destroyed her sister's life. I won't go into details regarding the productional values of "Coffy"; everything other than Grier, and the funk obsessed soundtrack, instantly leaves the memory with its routine sex, drugs, and revenge plot. It's an average film with a too-good-for-her-material actress as its front-and-center. A shame - most never knew what to do with Grier after the blaxploitation era ended: should she be a villain? A detective? A wise older woman? Thank God Quentin Tarantino swooped down to save her from further career monstrosities through 1997's "Jackie Brown": then and there was she able to prove that she was so much more than an icon of an otherwise trashy 1970s subgenre. She was also a leading lady with class, with major talent. "Coffy" is a showcase for her unique abilities that puts its brazenness aside in favor of a goddess of an actress.