Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Exactly how awesome is Federal Agent Cleopatra Jones? Yeah, she’s 6’2" and can wear a headdress and a cape like nobody else in cinematic history. Sure, she can drive a car like Mario Andretti and ride a motorbike like Evil Knievel and doesn’t even need to wear brassiere while riding this motorbike. We can see she knows Kung-Fu, can handle a blade and shoot a firearm like Wyatt Earp, but none of that compares to the fact that Cleopatra Jones has a phone in her car. Do you understand what I’m saying? She has a PHONE in her CAR! That’s some heavy shit.

We first visit Federal Agent Jones, played by the too lovely, too tall Tamara Dobson who is sadly no longer with us, as she is setting fire to some poppy fields someplace where foreigners live. Actually a jet is dropping bombs on these poppy fields which did seem a little like overkill when maybe a little gas and a match would’ve done the trick, but then we wouldn’t have those awesome explosions. These poppy fields belong to the evil gangstress known as Mommy, gloriously overplayed by the late Shelly Winters. Mommy is none too happy about what Cleo has done to her stash and if there’s in an offensive term that you can throw at a 6’2" Black woman, Mommy has let it fly from her lips. Mommy needs Cleopatra back in L.A. which will stop her from burning up her smack and more importantly so she can kill her dead.

First Mommy tries to off Cleo at the airport. That doesn’t go too well because she is a ‘Federal Agent’. I don’t know if it’s FBI, CIA, Secret Service or what, but that badge she flashes whenever anybody tries to ask why she’s killing people says ‘Federal Agent’. Then Mommy tries to off Cleo while she was visiting her man Rueben (Bernie Casey). That didn’t turn out to well either because Cleo made it to her James Bond enables Corvette, grabbed a few choice firearms, and now there are more dead people. Note that Bernie Casey is 6’4" and is the only person in this movie taller than Tamara Dobson.

The problems mount for Mommy because Cleo is starting to cause her soldiers to disrespect her authority, like Doodlebug (Antonio Vargas). Doodlebug figures if he’s

going to have Cleopatra on his ass, it makes no sense to keep giving Mommy 85 percent of his profits so he might as well do his own thing. In theory I can see where Doodlebug is coming from. But the execution of his planned defection… well, not so good.

Regardless, Mommy has had enough of this nonsense. All of her henchmen have failed to handle the one simple task of getting rid of Federal Agent Cleopatra Jones, so now she has to play her trump card and do this herself. And it’s looking pretty bad for Cleo and Tiffany (Brenda Sykes), Doodlebug’s lady who survived Doodlebug’s exit from life, and while Tiffany is completely freaking out, Cleo keeps telling her to ‘be cool’. Like somehow Cleo knows that they’re going skate around being crushed in a giant meat compactor. Just know when Cleopatra Jones tells you to ‘be cool’… then be cool baby, it’s under control.

How much fun are these forty year old blaxspoitation movies? True enough ‘Cleopatra Jones’ was light on the ‘sploitation but heavy on the blax considering I don’t recall seeing one wayward naked breast in this movie, but we did see a lot of Whitey getting put in his or her place. Man, nobody knew how to keep Whitey down and raise up Black folks more than a white director in the late Jack Starrett, a white screenwriter in Sheldon Keller and a movie studio in Warner Brothers run by Jewish people. Power to the PEOPLE! Apparently the story for Cleo and the gang was conceived by and co-written by ‘The Mack’ himself, Max Julien, who had to be responsible for a lot of the colorful language that you hear throughout this incredibly nonsensical and over the top slice of 1970’s action. Sometimes you watch some of these old school blaxsploitation movies and think to yourself ‘That doesn’t sound like anything any black person I know would say’, but not this movie as the likes of Bernie Casey and Antonio Vargas and the Kung Fu enabled Johnson Brothers (Albert Powell and Caro Kenyatta) flowed 1970’s style riffs so smoothly that it had to be written by The Mack. Plus Don Cornelius was in this movie. Don Freaking Cornelius. And when was the last time you saw a dying man pat down his afro? It’s been a while, right?

There were a few limitations here and there to be sure. Like maybe somebody should’ve given Tamara Dobson a few Kung Fu lessons before unleashing her Kung fu upon us. Same for the Kung Fu enabled Johnson Brothers who might’ve set the art of Kung Fu back a couple of decades. Every once in a while the movie would lose its focus and instead of watching Cleo kill, shoot, kick and murder we would hang out at night clubs and watch Brenda Sykes do an entire set or watch Tamara Dobson walk up and down the street. A lot. Or watch Bernie Casey and Tamara Dobson engage in one of the 70’s lamest love scenes. But Jack Starrett sure did know how to shoot a car chase scene, that’s for sure.

Thus with Shelly Winters unjustly cheated out of her third Academy Award, Bernie Casey looking mean, and observing Tamara Dobson putting on a fashion show… I mean this babe was sporting full length fur in Los Angeles in the summertime and didn’t drop one bead of sweat. That’s too cool, and she had a PHONE in her CAR. That’s Cleopatra Jones and we can’t wait for the sequel. Wait! It’s already out because it’s like thirty five years old! How lucky are we?

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