Comfortable and Furious

Coffy (1973)

Pam Grier is “Coffy,” a bad-ass, no-nonsense sistah who blows away at least a dozen pimps, drug dealers, and crooked cops, all because some scumbag got her 11-year-old sister hooked on heroin (nevermind when we visit her in the hospital she looks at least 32). And can you blame her? Ignore the ham-fisted, cue-card acting and place your attention on one of blaxploitation’s most endearing motherfuckers. Grier blows off a brother’s head after making him believe he’s going to get a piece of ass; administers a lethal dose of smack to another creep; drives a car through a window in order to run over some peckerwood with an eye patch (dig that wax dummy stand-in); and sticks some musclehead in the neck with a piece of glass she had tucked away in her blessed afro.

Add to that a hot-as-hell catfight, where Coffy (undercover as Jamaican prostitute Miss Tyque) throws assorted whores against the wall, pins them to the ground, throws them on tables, and yes, tears open their shirts to reveal beautiful, flopping tits. Coffy even plants razor blades in her hair so that an unsuspecting tramp cuts her hands when she inevitably goes for a pull.

There’s also a sellout black Congressman who, in order to save his skin (and his stake in the local drug empire), has Coffy taken out to be killed, only to find out that she survived. Not only that, she forced one captor off the road where he burned alive in his car, while leading another to the highway where he is first hit, then run over again and again. And of course, there’s that scene where Coffy sets one drug dealer against another, which leads to an unfortunate moment that might make relatives of James Byrd nervous.

I think there’s a story in here somewhere, or some kind of cautionary tale about the disintegration of the black community in the early 1970s, but this film endures because it’s 90 minutes of cheese, hilarity, and some of the best death scenes of the decade. You may have your Shaft, but I’ll take my Coffy. As the theme song says, “She’s as sweet as a chocolate bar.”



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