Coffy [1973]

In the opening minutes of Coffy, Pam Grier's star-making role, she blasts the skull of a sleazy drug pusher into pulp like a watermelon and shoots his junkie assistant with an overdose of heroin. Jack Hill knows how to open a movie, and he never lets up on the down-and-dirty action. Coffy is an emergency room nurse by day and vigilante by night, targeting the dealers who made her sister a comatose junkie. She works her way up to the Italian mobsters muscling into the ghetto drug trade while she's romanced by glib, smooth-talking politician Booker Bradshaw and wooed by nice-guy cop William Elliot, whose refusal to sell out to the corrupt force earns him a crippling beating.There's plenty of sex, a catty girl-fight that leaves the losers topless, and car chases and shootouts galore, but what makes Coffy a blaxploitation classic is Grier's Amazonian presence and fiery charisma, and the gritty, low-budget action scenes marked by visceral, wincing violence. Mob strong-arm Sid Haig (Spider Baby) cackles while dragging his victim (a strutting peacock pimp played by Nashville's Robert DoQui) behind a speeding car in a sadistic lynching, and Grier runs down one bad guy with a speeding car and takes care of another with a shotgun to the groin. Hill had previously directed Grier in The Big Doll House and The Big Bird Cage. Their next and last picture together, Foxy Brown, was originally written as the sequel to Coffy. --Sean Axmaker

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