There’s really not much to be said about Coffy. It begins with her snarling “This is the end of your rotten life, you motherfuckin’ dope pusher!” immediately prior to literally blowing the head off said dope pusher with a sawn-odd shotgun, and ends with her shooting her cheating boyfriend in the groin with the same shotgun. Coffy is a force of nature, and played to perfection by the great Pam Grier, an actress who really deserved better parts and better movies…. unfortunately she was black in 1970s America so Coffy remains her greatest role (that said, I guess great parts for black women in America today can still be considered pretty rare).
Its fascinating as much as it is wildly entertaining. Yes, its a blaxploitation movie, a somewhat derided genre, and this film is typical of so many of them- violent and littered with nudity- but there’s a quality to it that beggars many contemporary films, some decent characterisation and wily political observations. Coffy herself is a remarkable character, a nurse by day and avenger by night, she is clearly traumatised by her vigilante deeds. She isn’t a confident, experienced killer- she’s making it up as she goes along and spends as much time getting out of trouble when the odds are (often) stacked against her as she does plotting her revenge on the bastards who clearly deserve it. She gets cut and bruised and hurt, a clear departure from so many action heroes who triumph with nary a scratch. Most interestingly, she is beautiful and sexy and she knows it, using her body as much as her shotgun to get what she wants. As a heroine, she remains rather special and unique; no doubt a hugely empowering example for women at the time, I got the feeling watching this that were it made today it would still cause a huge storm. Hell, I doubt it could even get made at all these days.
Pam Grier is simply magnificent- very beautiful, and, yes, rather voluptuous, she carries a warmth and fragility that complicates what might have been just another typically badass gun-toting character. She’s also a strong woman at ease with her sexuality and how to use it to get her way in a man’s world. I’m sure many women cheer out loud when she dispenses her justice on her deserving creep of a boyfriend. Its easy to see why Tarantino cast Grier in Jackie Brown– and indeed I’m certain that Coffy must rank as one of his favourite movies, as it has clearly inspired so many of his own.