Follow TV Tropes


Film / Coffy

Go To
My name's Coffy.

Although it wasn't her first movie, Coffy (1973) was the production that made Pam Grier a star of cult cinema. It was among the first notable Blaxploitation films, and one of the first action movies featuring a strong heroine. Writer-director Jack Hill, the creator of several exploitation flicks, found enough success with this movie to spawn a Spiritual Successor, Foxy Brown (1974).

Coffy is a young nurse whose sister is permanently brain damaged from having used tainted heroin. Traumatized by her sister's condition, Coffy hunts down the dealer who sold her sister the bad drug, seduces him under the pretense of needing heroin, then blows his head off.

Soon afterward, Coffy hears news of her work from childhood friend Carter (William Elliott), a police officer. Carter, unlike many of the local police and politicians, is a cop with integrity who refuses to be bought out by the mob. As a result, both he and Coffy are attacked by thugs, and Carter is hospitalized in critical condition. Coffy, pushed too far, goes on a rampage of vigilante justice, working her way up the chain of drug dealers and pimps, seeking to put an end to the mob influence at the source...permanently.

Receives a Foreign Remake a few years later from Hong Kong's Shaw Brothers studios, The Drug Connection.

This film provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Coffy was among the first. She doesn't hesitate to get into a fight or to use extreme violence.
  • Affably Evil: King George seems like an extremely likable fellow that his hookers actually enjoy spending time with.
  • Afro Asskicker: Coffy's afro hairdo also serves as a hiding place for various weapons.
  • All Crimes Are Equal: Coffy believes anyone involved in the drug trade deserves to die.
  • And This Is for...: After Coffy kills Arturo:
    That's a present for my little sister, and a nice cop named Carter.
  • Anti-Hero: Coffy's brand of vigilante justice is one of gory and indiscriminate revenge. However, her later reactions about her antiheroic actions are played out realistically. In the beginning of the film she kills a drug dealer and a user, and later she is unable to do her job as a nurse because the sight of a patient's wounds reminds her too much of the bloodshed earlier. She even questions her friend Carter about vigilante justice, and Coffy's tone of voice and questions implied that she is fishing for Carter to give her a reason she can believe in to stop her crusade. But Carter being hospitalized finally pushes her plans forward.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • With one possible exception, every single person Coffy kills is a complete bastard: drug runners, thugs, crooked cops, slimy politicians, and hired muscle. One might argue that in some cases, these victims are just doing their job; but the glee they take in their actions makes one cheer for Coffy one hundred percent.
    • Averted for King George, who is framed for Coffy's attempt on Vitroni. In comparison to the other criminals he seems like a relatively nice guy. Granted, he's a pimp, but a fairly benign one - all of his hookers seem loyal to him and are voluntarily working for him. Despite this, he ends up being dragged to death behind a car.
  • Attempted Rape: Coffy makes them wish they hadn't made the effort.
  • The Bad Guys Are Cops: Not all the bad guys are cops, but all cops but one seem to be bought by the drug bosses. The chief of police is buddies with the drug lords, and two policemen actively help Vitroni's henchmen when they try to dispose of Coffy.
  • Big Bad: Arturo Vritoni, a drug boss plotting to take over the city.
  • Bigger Is Better in Bed: Coffy herself makes several comments about the size of her lovers and soon-to-be victims throughout the film.
    Coffy (to Vitroni): Ooo, my love! Are you sure you're not just a little black?
  • Bittersweet Ending: Coffy manages to avenge her sister and Carter as well as herself against Howard, whom she kills, but Lubelle is still brain damaged, Carter is still in a coma, and Coffy now must figure out what she can do with her life after spilling so much blood.
  • Black Bra and Panties: Coffy poses as a High-Class Call Girl to get close to and assasinate a number of drug lords. In one of these scenes, she strips down to this, then pulls out a a gun from her bag.
  • Black Jezebel Stereotype: Coffy is a woman on a revenge mission, this time against those who enabled her sister's heroin addiction. She's a Heroic Seductress who disguises herself as a call girl to Honey Trap her primary target. These scenes also deploy a Male Gaze perspective that highlight Grier's sex appeal. The tagline for the film highlights the Interplay of Sex and Violence: "They call her 'Coffy' and she'll cream you!"
  • Blaxploitation: A typical example of the genre, except for having a female protagonist and a strong anti-drug message.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Coffy shoots Sugarman in the head. With a shotgun.
  • Car Fu: Coffy does make excellent use of an automobile during the movie's climax.
  • Car Meets House: Coffy drives a car into Arturo's house, running over Aleva in the process.
  • Cat Fight: After suffering an "accidental" beverage spill from a jealous call girl, Coffy cleans up and comes back for revenge. It escalates into an all-out battle of Coffy vs. the entire bevy of prostitutes, in which Coffy somehow manages to tear the top off of every one of them, while all the male party guests Pass the Popcorn.
  • Chairman of the Brawl: Priscilla's pimp/implied lesbian lover attacks Coffy with a chair.
  • Character Title: The film is named after its protagonist.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Meg, one of King George's primary prostitutes, is intensely jealous of "Mystique" when introduced. She mishears her name as "Miss Stick" and then keeps calling her that despite being corrected. She then sets off a big Cat Fight by dumping a tray of drinks on Coffy's white dress.
  • Clothing Damage:
    • Coffy gets into a Cat Fight with a bunch of call girls, "accidentally" ripping the top off each and every one of them and exposing their bare breasts. Her own top is not ripped off, but her breasts pop out on their own a couple of times.
    • In an early scene a gangster threatens a waitress who took a picture of some night club patrons. He tears open her blouse, exposing her braless breast.
  • Cool Car: King George's limo. The other crime bosses and pimps also ride in big, flashy cars.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Coffy makes uses of salad, trays, and razor blades during her Cat Fight.
  • Contrived Clumsiness: This is what starts the aforementioned Cat Fight. Meg the call girl plays this very straight, trying to genuinely convince her audience that her act of spilling drinks on Coffy/Mistique was really an accident. One man who watched the whole thing calls her out on it.
  • Corrupt Politician: Coffy's boyfriend Howard Brunswick appears to be a clean-cut councilman. Turns out he's part of a drug gang.
  • Crapsack World: The city the film's set in has a drug problem so bad there's a rehab center for children, with the entire government being in on it. Even the supposed young crusader pretending to fight the system.
  • Cynicism Catalyst: When her little sister is brain damaged from her drug use and hospitalized, Coffy takes a very cynical view of the system and starts thinking that the only solution is to kill off all the drug dealers. When her cop friend is brutally beaten — and, like her sister, brain damaged — for refusing to take bribes, she's driven to action.
  • Dirty Cop: Most of them, except for Carter.
  • Dirty Harriet: Coffy goes undercover as a call girl for King George in order to infiltrate the criminal underworld, although she's a vigilante, not a police officer.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Coffy hunting down and executing drug dealers can sometimes feel like this, especially the more Affably Evil ones.
  • Drugs Are Bad: This movie had a very strong anti-drug message, which was unusual for its time. This is usually taken as a conservative message on the part of writer/director Jack Hill, although he has stated that he wasn't trying to to send a message, but simply to do the opposite of what all the other movies were doing.
  • Expository Theme Tune: One with a great deal of Values Dissonance.
  • Fashion Dissonance: King George's Pimp Duds in his first scenes may have been cool on a pimp in The '70s. Today the outfilt — a skin-tight, chest-baring, orange jumpsuit with a matching cape — would raise a few eyebrows.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Vitroni towards Coffy. Even after she's tried to kill him, he acts nice towards her, orders his henchmen not to harm her, and then swears on his mother that as long as she tells the truth, she can go. Then he orders his henchmen to take her out and kill her.
  • Fingore: During the big Cat Fight scene, one woman grabs Coffy by her hair without realizing that she's tied razorblades into her afro. She is later shown with big bandages on her hands.
  • Food Slap: Coffy starts the Cat Fight by emptying a sald bowl over Meg's head. She also throws a drink in another girl's face.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: Priscilla threatens Coffy with a knife, and Coffy reacts by shattering a wine bottle and threatening her with the jagged edge.
  • Groin Attack: The film ends with a brutal example: Coffy fires a shotgun at point-blank range at Brunswick's groin, and then leaves him to bleed out, with his mistress watching.
  • Hammerspace Hair:
    • Coffy hides blades in her afro before starting the aformentioned Cat Fight.
    • She also hides a sharpened shiv (improvised from one of her hair pins) during her captivity in a sauna, used later to escape rape and death.
  • High-Class Call Girl: King George employs several of them. His business thrives, until the day he hires a sexy young woman named Mystique...
  • Improvised Weapon:
    • Before the big Cat Fight scene, Coffy ties razorblades in her afro hairdo. One of the prostitutes then grabs her by the hair, with a gory result.
    • When held captive by the bad guys, Coffy sharpens a hairpin on a stone. She then uses it to repeatedly stab a man in the neck.
  • Lingerie Scene: Coffy strips to her black bra and panties during one of her Dirty Harriet scenes.
  • The Mole: Howard Brunswick: Corrupt Politician, Coffy's lover, and total bastard.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Well, we are talking about Pam Grier. She spends a large part of the movie in Stripperiffic clothes or various stages of undress.
  • Murder-Suicide: Coffy makes it look like Sugarman's bodyguard shot him and fatally overdosed.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: This seems to be the guiding principle behind Coffy's spree of vengeance.
  • Pimp Duds: King George in Coffy goes a bit lighter on the bling than some examples, but makes up for it by wearing a half-cape that matches his harvest gold, skin-tight, chest-baring jumpsuit and orange-rimmed sunglasses.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Arturo shows what a vile human being he is by hurling racial slurs at Coffy.
  • Protagonist Title: Coffy.
  • Pun: When trying to kill Coffy with an overdose of heroin, the bad guys unknowingly put sugar in Coffy.
  • Red Right Hand: Aleva wears sunglasses to hide his disfigured eye.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Coffy won't stop until the pushers and pimps are all dead.
  • Sassy Black Woman: Coffy.
  • The '70s: It's not just the clothes that makes this film a Period Piece. The take on social issues is also typical of the decade, with the exception of its very unequivocal "drugs are bad" message.
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: Coffy uses them to good effect.
  • Show Some Leg: Coffy does this quite a bit in order to get close to her targets or put them off guard. To be fair, Pam Grier is very easy on the eyes.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!:
    Howard Brunswick: What I did was for our people, for our brothers and sisters.
    Coffy: You shouldn't talk to me about sisters, Howard, I've got a sister.
  • Something Else Also Rises: Coffy is about to have sex with King George, something she must do to infiltrate his organization. King George approaches, shedding his Pimp Duds, there's a Sexy Discretion Shot to a fireplace...and then the next shot is a champagne cork popping, at a party.
  • Spiteful Spit: Arturo spits at Coffy.
  • Unproblematic Prostitution: King George's hookers all seem to be happy to work for him and adults. Subverted with one of his former girls who is a recovering heroin addict, has a severe scar, and is terrified that he'd kill her for betraying him.
  • Vapor Wear:
    • Many of the women are obviously braless. It is The '70s, after all.
    • The white dress Coffy wears as Mystique makes it quite clear that she is not wearing anything at all underneath it.
  • Vigilante Woman: After her first assault, Coffy contemplates the possibility of vigilante justice while talking with Carter. He discourages it, since he's a good cop who believes in the law. After the two of them are attacked for Carter's refusal to be bought out, Coffy makes her decision.
  • What a Drag: King George meets his untimely demise in this manner. Not only do the hitmen drag him down a dirt road at high speed (and behind his own car, to add insult to injury), but they take special care that he hits some big boulders by the road.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?:
    • Coffy plays her role as the prostitute "Mystique" with a Jamaican accent, but she doesn't quite seem to get it r—oh wow, she just took her clothes off.
    • Some of the other prostitutes have rather interesting accents, as well.