Reviewed by Jason Coffman
Rating: 8 Beans
he title character's last name is "Jones." The film stars Antonio Fargas as a character named "Doodlebug." Also, Bernie Casey is one of the main characters. It was made in 1973. I don't think I even need to write a review for this movie. "Cleopatra Jones" isn't quite on the same level of brilliance as the incredible "Black Belt Jones," but has a subtle charm of its own.
Cleo (Tamara Dobson) is known around the world as one of the best. She's a United States Special Agent, cracking down on the drug scene. She is introduced during the opening credits supervising the destruction of a poppy field. You know she's for real.
The bad news? The poppy field is a major source of supply for lesbian gangster Mommy (Shelley Winters). Naturally, Mommy wants Cleo eliminated, but Miss Jones has other plans.
"Cleopatra Jones" is weird. Shelley Winters is largely responsible for this, over-playing Mommy so much that the performance is more often embarrassing than anything. One of my female friends told me that the scenes with Mommy and her various girlfriends (she gropes and makes verbal advances toward them, but there's nothing explicit) made her acutely uncomfortable. Of course, in between weird scenes like that, we get to see Cleo, six feet of dark chocolate, kick an awful lot of criminal ass.
Any student of blaxploitation film absolutely must see "Cleopatra Jones," not just as an example of how the studio probably saw a chance to cash in on both blaxploitation and feminism in one fell swoop, but for Antonio Fargas' performance. Fargas is legendary for his portrayals of pimps and pushers, and "Cleopatra Jones" sees him at the top of his game. Plus, the theme music is incredible, and there is a jive scene which is nearly unintelligible. Watch it back-to-back with "Black Belt Jones" for a great Warner Brothers blaxploitation night.
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