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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.
- Action Girl: Coffy was among the first.
- Afro Asskicker
- Anti-Hero: It should be noted, though, that Coffy is notably troubled by her actions after she commits them, specifically after she kills two dealers in the beginning of the movie.
- Asshole Victim: 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.
- Attempted Rape: Coffy makes them wish they hadn't made the effort.
- Bigger Is Better in Bed: Coffy herself makes several comments about the size of her lovers and almost-lovers throughout the film.
Coffy: Ooo, my love! Are you sure you're not just a little black?
- Car Fu: Coffy does make excellent use of an automobile during the movie's climax.
- 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.
- Clingy Jealous Girl: Meg, one of King George's primary prostitutes, is intensely jealous of "Mystique" when introduced. She refers to her as "Miss Stick" and bumps a tray of drinks on her white dress.
- 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.
- Dead Little Sister: Coffy's motivation is her little sister, who was severely brain damaged as a result of taking tainted heroin.
- Dirty Cop: Most of them, except for Carter.
- Dirty Harriet: Coffy uses this tactic to work her way through the ranks of the underworld.
- Drugs Are Bad: This movie had a very strong anti-drug message, which was unusual for its time.
- That's 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. Another noted example is The Swinging Cheerleaders, where a campus radical leader is a rapist who gets his comeuppance from the football team. Most movies of the time would have pitted savior radicals against rapist jocks.
- Expository Theme Tune: One with a great deal of Values Dissonance.
- Groin Attack: Some of Coffy's gun blasts were aimed pretty low.
- Hammerspace Hair: Coffy hides blades in her afro before starting the aformentioned Cat Fight.
- She also hides a sharpened shiv 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...
- The Mole: Howard Brunswick: Politician, Coffy's lover, and total bastard.
- Ms. Fanservice: Well, we are talking about Pam Grier.
- Pimp Duds: King George has an amazing wardrobe, most notably the yellow-orange outfit with the prominent moose knuckle.
- Punny Stuff: When trying to kill Coffy with an overdose of heroin, the bad guys unknowingly put sugar in Coffy.
- Perhaps this is an example of Irony.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Coffy won't stop until the pushers and pimps are all dead.
- Sassy Black Woman
- Shower Scene
- Show Some Leg: This is a standard method of seduction for Coffy.
- 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: Poor King George. He didn't even know what he did wrong.
- 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.