(Originally an IP Movies Review)
From the press release to the final credits, Sugar Boxx writer and director Cody Jarrett gives his best attempt at a 1970s “women in prison” film. The problem with Sugar Boxx, though, is that all the pieces of the sexploitation puzzle never fall into place. Instead the viewer sits through an hour and a half of awkward acting, inconsistent dialogue, tons of naked breasts, and loads of other types of female exploitation.
Reporter Valerie March (Geneviere Anderson) takes it upon herself to help her friend Irene (Jacqueline Scott – Empire of the Ants, Charley Varrick) find her niece, and uncover exactly what is going on in the Sugar State Woman’s Prison. With the support of her boss, she transforms from reporter to hooker, speeds down a Florida highway, and eventually gets exactly what she wants thanks to a couple of crooked cops: 15 years in Sugar State Woman’s Prison. Once there, she discovers that the domineering warden (Linda Dona – General Hospital) is the leader of a prostitution ring, using the sexiest female inmates of the prison as the pros. Valerie eventually befriends badass Loretta Sims (Thela Brown – Flavor of Love), and together, the two work to find Irene’s niece. Once the authorities refuse to help, Valerie and Loretta take justice into their own hands and seek revenge on those that have done them wrong.
Starting with the positives, Cody Jarrett has managed to bring together some of the biggest names of exploitation cinema for cameo and minor roles in Sugar Boxx. Legendary screenwriter and director Jack Hill (Coffy, Foxy Brown, The Terror), who some call the “Godfather of Blaxploitation”, makes an appearance as a judge, as does the late, great Tura Satana (Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, The Astro-Zombies). Playing minor roles are Kitten Natividad (Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens, Takin’ It All Off), and the aforementioned Jacqueline Scott. Any exploitation fan of the 70s will surely smile when these legends take the screen. That isn’t to say their work here is wonderful, but the viewer can tell that these actors, at the very least, belong in this type of film.
The same cannot be said for most of the rest of the cast, however, and the lead actors look and feel out of place in the exploitation genre. Geneviere Anderson seems to be a talented actress, but is completely miscast. She is clumsy in her stripper boots, looks funny when she puts on her hooker makeup (probably because she is a naturally beautiful woman and the makeup looks awful), and never hits the mark on those cheesy one-liners that the genre is known for. She does have an excellent body that she is willing to show off, which is the one requirement of the genre she meets and exceeds. Her co-star, a reality-show-contestant-turned-actor, Thela Brown has some funny moments, but is only as good as the script she is given, which isn’t saying much. At lest Brown looks her part, unlike Anderson.
Before watching the special features my biggest complaint was that Jarrett attempted to set this exploitation film in a modern-day setting, which doesn’t work the same way it did in the 1970s. In the Making Of, though, Jarrett explains that the film is set in 1975, not present day. This information moves my argument from one side of the spectrum to the other: there is virtually no indication that this film is set in 1975. Upon a repeated viewing, the only thing that dates the film’s story is some static televisions, which aren’t nearly enough. At one point – in Irene’s house – there even appears to be CDs in the background of the shot, and Valerie is always wearing modern clothing, which hurts the film. If Jarrett did more to place the movie where the script says it is – 1975 – the story of the movie may have worked better.
There is no doubt this film is exploitative, but that isn’t enough. Sugar Boxx is severely lacking on the humor that kept the exploitation genre alive. There are only one or two genuinely funny moments, and they come too late in the film to get the viewer interested. Though there is a ton of sex in the first half of the film, there isn’t nearly enough violence when the revenge portion of the film begins and there is literally less blood in this film than in some stage productions I have done. The movie has a chance to win the viewer over with over-the-top retribution, but fails to deliver anything noteworthy. Cody Jarrett’s third attempt at a throwback genre (Surfbroads and Frog-g-g! precede Sugar Boxx) falls short of its sexploitation label.
Branden has been a film fan since he was young, roaming the halls of Blockbuster Video, trying to find the grossest, scariest looking VHS covers to rent and watch alone in the basement. It wasn’t until recently, though, that Branden started seeking out the classics of cinema, and began to develop his true passion for the art form. Branden approaches each film with the unique perspective of having studied the art from the inside, having both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in acting. He has been a film critic since 2010, and has previously written for Inside Pulse Movies, We Love Cult, and Diehard Gamefan. His biggest achievement as a film critic, to date, has been founding Cinefessions and turning it from a personal blog to a true film website, housing hundreds of film and television reviews, and dozens of podcasts.