- Pam Grier as Coffy
- Booker Bradshaw as Howard Brunswick
- Robert DoQui as King George
- Allan Arbus as Vitroni
- Sid Haig as Omar
A well-known blaxploitation film that bolstered the career of its star Pam Grier(who would become the reigning queen of the genre), Coffy is an exciting film that surprisingly still has some resonance today. Some of the parts don’t stand up, but the overall product is still a spectacle to behold.
Coffy is a nurse who has seen the bad effects of drugs on her community. It has really hit home as her younger sister has become a drug addict and is now in rehabilitation after taking a bad batch of heroin. Coffy is at the moment dating Howard Brunswick, a smooth talking and seemingly nice councilman who is running for a position in congress and the one who provides some support to her. Boiling with anger at the anguish that she sees for those who are close to her, Coffy vows to get even with the people involved in the drug trade. The ladder of corruption reaches very high and branches out in prostitution rings, plus cops that look the other way as they are on the pay roll of bad gangsters. Coffy is given more of an incentive to take justice into her own hands and seek vengeance when a good friend of hers, who refused to take a bribe is beaten into a coma. With her smarts and attitude, she infiltrates one such ring posing as glamorous hooker. She sets about with her body and brains up the corrupt drugs structure and the gangs within it that are in front of her, primarily hoping to reach the main men in pimp King George and perverted Mafia boss Vitroni. Yet while fighting for what’s right, Coffy may just discover that the issue and the horror may lie closer to home than she thinks.
Jack Hill writes and directs Coffy in an efficient and gripping fashion. His script has a snap and streetwise sound to it, while his confidence in direction with the action keeps the film going along. Some parts could have been embellished, but Hill’s direction is still marvellously constructed and packs a punch when needed. His quick pacing is a good asset in Coffy, and straight from the opening scene where our main character blows the head off a drug dealer and gives his accomplice a taste of his own medicine, the film never lets up on the entertainment score. And the tension is more than cranked up in the last act as Coffy fights the goons of the dealers and later on brings new meaning to the word ball busting. There is enough gratuitous nudity, bloodshed and profanity in Coffy, that one associates with the genre. Some parts of this don’t have the same impact as they once did, but the violence still stacks up it must be said. And the many ways that Coffy takes out the corrupt gangsters and dealers she comes across is immensely satisfying as you can see why she is doing it. She just wants to stop the drug trade that ruined her sister’s life and with no one to help, it falls upon her to take often violent control in this situation. Though people may take issue with the whole violence and vigilantism of Coffy, that is to also forget the message in it. The film is clearly one that is against drugs and never loses that moral standpoint, which is refreshing to see for a film of the time. And Coffy is not presented as some superhero, she is really an ordinary women glimpsing the horror and actually doing something about it. An irresistible funky soundtrack puts you right in the middle of everything and has that tone of the 70’s that you just can’t shake.
At the centre of the film is the forceful and feisty Pam Grier, who was born for this role of the sassy vigilante. With a tough attitude, depth and sex appeal, she portrays the eponymous Coffy as a woman who has seen enough and wants to get right back at those who ruined her sister. Grier boasts both an emotional and physical presence that is hard to tear your eyes away from and it is easy to see why she is seen as such an icon in the genre. You would seriously not want to tangle with the character of Coffy, as she has vengeance and anger boiling through her waiting to ignite. Booker Bradshaw plays her man, who may know more than he’s letting on behind that friendly demeanor and clean-cut image. Robert DoQui and Allan Arbus both register well as the pimp and slimy Mafia man who Coffy is trying to reach and eliminate before they ruin other lives, just like they have done to her sister. Sid Haig steals the show whenever he is present as the vicious hit man for Vitroni, genuinely emitting something quite uneasy and creepy about the largely laconic brute.
Despite the moments that become ludicrous, Coffy ratchets up the action in many ways and you can’t ask for a better person to play the title character with the grit and determination of Pam Grier. This blaxploitation movie is a blast in more ways than one.