Friday, March 10, 2017

Cleopatra Jones (1973)

Directed by: Jack Starrett
Run Time: 89 minutes

She has a license to kill like James Bond, she has John Shaft's attitude, and if you sell drugs in her home town you better expect to die. This is Cleopatra Jones.

The movie opens with footage of camels and Bedouins. You know because the title character is named after an Egyptian pharaoh and the movie opens in Turkey. Which as we all know is a famous secondary location for all the wonders and sights of Egypt. Now I have gotten the sarcasm out of the way, there is a group of military officers waiting for Cleopatra Jones. As she is needed to give the order to launch the airstrike on a rather expensive poppy field.

The field was the property of the drug kingpin Mommy (Shelly Winters). An L.A. based lesbian drug baron who is having all sorts of problems keeping her empire running. Her street level lieutenants are not paying her and making noise about going independent. Then there is Cleopatra Jones, when she's not traveling the globe waging a one woman war against drugs she is funding a youth outreach detox clinic run by her man Reuben (Bernie Casey). Being three mustache twirls away from being a cartoon villain Mommy gets her corrupt police contact to raid Reuben's center and orders a hit on Cleopatra when comes to Los Angles because of the raid on Reuben's center.

The police raid on Reuben's center "finds" drugs in the place and start the bureaucratic headache to shut the place down. This act brings Cleopatra back to L.A. and into the waiting arms of Mommy's assassins. Unfortunately for the assassins Cleopatra is ten steps ahead of them and ambushes the assassins.

This is where the plot splits into three sub-stories. The first story deals with Mommy, her struggle to keep her empire working, There Doodlebug's (Antonio Fargas) story were he is getting ready to quit working for Mommy and setting his own empire. Finally there is Cleopatra Jones who is destroying the drug trade, getting into an impressive car chase, and ending the career of gangsters with guns and karate.

Overall this movie feels like a low budget Roger Moore Bond script. Cleopatra is always a well dressed, can walk away from a bloodbath shootout just by flashing a badge, there isn't anything with an engine that she can't operate, and is loved by everyone who isn't in the antagonist camp. It doesn't have the dark undertones, gritty backdrop like Shaft, Coffy, Three the Hard Way, and other blaxplotation films made at the similar point in time have.

It's a fun and slightly insane movie. Not one that should be hunted down and watched the hell out of but if it's available for rental or streaming is worth your time.

MVT: The car chase in the Los Angles spillway is one of the few things that leaps out at me with out the aid of notes. So I am going to go with that.

Make or Break: The movie came close to points breaking me out of the film with the constant jumping from one character to another.

Score: 5.4 out of 10

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