Dolemite is My Name

Alas this wasn’t our first choice but it turns out the UK is trailing behind the US when it comes to some new releases and so here we are. It’s plain rude, frankly but I’m not dwelling on it – The Nightingale will have its time.

Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised by this bio of real-life visionary Rudy Ray Moore which boasts a wicked cast and had me to the very end of it’s hefty run time.

Dolemite is My Name (2019)

Eddie Murphy portrays real-life legend Rudy Ray Moore, a comedy and rap pioneer who proved naysayers wrong when his hilarious, obscene, kung-fu fighting alter ego, Dolemite, became a 1970s Blaxploitation phenomenon.

Director: Craig Brewer
Stars: Eddie Murphy, Keegan-Michael Key, Mike Epps

*Spoilers*

Los Angeles, 1970s and Rudy Ray Moore (Murphy) is a record store employee and struggling recording artist/stand-up comedian. He begs the store’s in-house DJ (Snoop Dogg) to play his records which he refuses to do, favouring instead the dulcet tones of Marvin Gaye. One day a homeless man comes to the store and starts ranting in rhyme, one of his proclamations features someone called ‘Dolemite’.

Rudy gets the idea to create an onstage persona, inspired by this exchange – he dresses as a pimp with a cane and takes to the stage with a crude set he’s written called The Signifying Monkey. The club crowd loves it and people finally start to take notice of Rudy and his unique brand of talent. This leads him to approach his aunt for the $250 he needs to record a comedy record – called Eat Out More Often – which he’s forced to sell out of the back of his car when he refuses to clean up his act for the one producer who shows an interest.

The album, of course, proves very popular within the black community and a record company picks it up, promising to market it in stores. On his ensuing national tour, Rudy meets the amazing Lady Reed (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) who joins his act. While visiting another city on tour, Rudy and his friends decide to go to the cinema to let off some steam. Eager for something to laugh at, they settle on Billy Wilder’s The Front Page. Unfortunately, none of them find it remotely amusing or relateable, while the mostly white audience think it’s a scream – and it is here that Rudy decides they’re going to make their own movie.

Despite zero movie making experience and multiple funding knock backs, Rudy manages to convince his label to finance the movie using an advance on the royalties from his latest album. He plans to star as central character Dolemite himself. The movie, also called Dolemite, is a kung-fu Blaxploitation movie. With the help of reluctant playwright Jerry Jones (Key) and even less enthusiastic Rosemary’s Baby actor D’Urville Martin (Wesley Snipes), Rudy rounds out his creative team. He also brings in a crew of college students to shoot the movie and takes over an abandoned hotel with no running water or electricity.

To say they’ve got their work cut out is an understatement and Dolemite is My Name centers around their efforts to get the film made and then distributed. It’s a pet project of such determination that you just can’t help being caught up in it. I rooted for the whole crew from the get go. The film is reminiscent in subject matter (kind of) to The Disaster Artist and the sheer single-mindedness of Rudy is not unlike that of real-life Tommy Wiseau.

I’m not always Eddie Murphy’s biggest fan to be honest but I did very much enjoy him in this role. He seems more at home in more adult roles and it’s refreshing to have him playing just the one character, rather than every character. I have massive love for Keegan-Michael Key and Craig Robinson (who I find crazy attractive). It was also nice to see Tituss Burgess again, Titus Andromedon is everything to me. The film has real heart and the real-life Rudy must have been an incredible man.

I enjoy movies about underdogs that come out on top in the end – and this is a shining example of that sub-genre. It’s also fascinating to learn more about a man and a film I never would have ordinarily. Being a middle-aged white woman and all. Perhaps one day Jill and I will find and review Dolemite on these very blogs. It has an all-female kung-fu army after all, what’s not to love?

4/5

What does my own superstar think of Dolemite? Would she shoot a chaotic love scene with it or refuse to fund it any longer? Find out here.

Coffy

You know I think this might be our first Blaxploitation movie for the Collab? Which is quite surprising really. Maybe Jill will correct me but for now I just want to sit with that. I’ve been meaning to check some out for a long time and now I’ve finally seen Miss Grier in action, maybe I bloody will.

Also, the world sadly lost Sid Haig this week and he appears as a very young, very nasty henchman in this week’s pick, coincidence?

A black nurse takes vigilante justice against inner-city drug dealers after her sister becomes their latest victim.

Coffy

She’s the ‘GODMOTHER’ of them all.

*Spoilers*

My Review

Uh. This film is a lot. In a good way and a bad way but maybe that’s just because by the very nature of this sub-genre, it was not designed with a middle-aged white woman in mind. What I mean is I found some of the imagery and language quite uncomfortable but I’ll go into that in a bit.

Coffy (Grier) is a nurse with the goth AF surname ‘Coffin’ but goes as Coffy because I guess it’s just nicer. She’s a nurse in a busy hospital by day (also night) and a vigilante justice seeker by night (probably not day). Her main MO is to get revenge on the bastards that got her little sister Lulubelle hooked on smack but also, she wants to clean up the streets which are full of corruption. Not only at the hands of the criminals but the police too, the rat bastards.

Coffy moonlights as a junkie in search of her next fix to gain access to a well-known dealer. At his home, she blows off his head and forces his associate to take a legal overdose. When he asks her why, Coffy mentions her sister’s name and her ‘victim’ admits he can’t even remember her. Ohnoyoufuckingdidn’t.

Meanwhile, Coff hangs out a bit with her buddy Carter, a police officer who is vehemently against police corruption. She moans about the state of the community and he agrees with her. Despite this, she’s not convinced he’s as blameless as he says he is until she witnesses him being beaten half to death by some thugs in his apartment. She also gets a slap down (and is sexually assaulted but nobody ever mentions it again. Mmmm).

Carter is badly hurt and left severely brain damaged so our girl does what all good undercover heroes do: she adds him to her ‘To Be Avenged’ list and goes on her merry way. Coffy also has a boyfriend – Howard Brunswick – a local councilman who’s just decided to run for congressman. She digs him for his work in the community and wholeheartedly supports his politics.

Pam, sorry Coffy next sets her sights on super pimp King George and manages to get a gig as one of his tricks by pretending to be a Jamaican prostitute called Mystique. This causes ructions between the other ‘hos’ as George drops them like hot potatoes when Mystique rocks up.

And, well from here there are high jinks to be had, cat fights, horrible misogyny, murder, overuse of the word ‘bitch’ and justice, in no particular order.

Will Coffy do what she came to do – that is, get revenge on behalf of Lulubelle and Carter? Is Howard Brunswick the good guy he claims to be ? Watch if you like your tongue-lashings sharp and delicious, and your arse whoopings bloody and straight to the point.

My Comments

“What first attracted you this film, Christa?”.

“Well, Pam Grier did, Your Honor and as one of the first female action heroes no less.”

While this film is very exploitative of the female form – all women are whores or bitches, boobs pop out of skimpy tops regularly and are there to be squeezed like ripe grapefruit – Pam is a vision as ballsy Coffy, hell-bent on serving streaming hot mugs of justice to criminals – her way. The woman is resourceful – using her sexuality like a weapon to get where she needs to go – and fearless in ways you can’t even imagine.

I think I might have enjoyed this one a little bit more however, had Coffy had more female support (or offered more) but as it is, vigilante work seems to be a very isolated business. The only interactions Coff has with anyone female, besides her sister are very rocky. I guess this would be the case if you were digging around in the underbelly of the city where everyone’s just trying to survive but still. Girl power, anyone?

How good would it be if she could actually help some of these women build more meaningful lives down the line? I like to think that just after the credits rolled, that’s exactly what she did.

On the topic of strong imagery, there a horrible scene in which King George finally gets what’s coming to him and it’s the way in which he’s tortured and killed that I found haunting (he’s hung from a noose and dragged through a field for miles until dead). It’s an unflinching death and maybe there’s a point to be made in there somewhere, who knows?

I strangely got accustomed to hearing the ‘B’ word but found myself flinching at the overtly racist slurs used towards Coffy and any of the black characters by anyone not black. Which is how I should feel, I know. And call me crazy but I will never tire of hearing Pam Grier refer to everyone as ‘Motherfucker’. I can see now where Samuel L. got the inspiration for his trademark tagline.

There are many things that could be said about this movie and I think I’ll enjoy reading more about the feminist viewpoint of Pam’s grindhouse movies. I liked Grier’s powerhouse performance and can’t look away from her when she’s onscreen, so it’s not hard to understand why she’s the Queen of Blaxploitation.

I need more. STAT.

Film details:

Starring: Pam Grier, Booker Bradshaw, Robert DoQui
Director: Jack Hill
Year: 1973
IMDB Rating: 6.8/10
My Rating: 3/5

What does my vigilante angel think of Coffy’s world? Would she join forces immediately, or run for the hills? Find out here.