Pam Grier returned to blaxploitation yet again to play a leading lady in Friday Foster, a late film in the sub-genre from director Arthur Marks. It also boasted such vital black actors as Yaphet Kotto, Godfrey Cambridge, Eartha Kitt, and Carl Weathers in its cast, a strong group mostly underutilized in a movie that often struggles to find sure footing between its crime and fashion photography plots.
Grier plays Friday, a photojournalist working for Glance Magazine who often gets sent to dangerous gigs in order to get the good photos. In this case, she manages to capture a group of black men assaulting important millionaire Blake Tarr (Thalmus Rasulala) as he steps off of his private jet at the airport. Determined to take down the guys who did it, she gets roped into the investigation led by Colt Hawkins (Kotto) and led down a path of danger that introduces her to all kinds of black government bigwigs, including Senator David Lee Hart (Paul Benjamin) and Noble Franklin (Scatman Crothers).
Friday Foster has a fairly complex plot with a lot of exposition, and that becomes rather evident as the film carries on. Its exploration of Friday as a character slowly morphs into having to explain the various characters with potentially nefarious schemes, and nearly all of them are red herrings. One must give credit to the film’s script, which twists and turns through the 90 minute running time; at the same time, the emphasis on noir-ish detective antics tends to alleviate a lot of the suspense.
Part of that comes with uninspired direction from Marks. While Friday Foster has some interesting action sequences – including a car chase sequence with Friday behind the wheel of a hearse after she steals it from her friend’s funeral – ultimately Marks is unable to match this excitement when Friday’s interrogating potential suspects.
The motive behind the attacks is missing throughout much of the film as well, an element that should be present to hook the viewer’s attention. Instead, Friday Foster lingers on Friday’s revenge story instead of the overarching criminal element, and there’s little chance of investment in characters because the film too often jumps from each plot element without allowing it to develop.
The worst example of this is the final reveal, because Marks has done little to build up to it. None of the suspects Friday believed to be behind the attacks on pivotal black political figures are the real criminals; while that’s sort of a relief, it leaves Friday Foster open to some critical backlash because the reveal is remarkably abrupt, wrapping up both motive and the identity of the criminal in literally one sentence. It’s akin to something one might see on Scooby-Doo after the villain’s been apprehended – an easy confession, with a clear and concise definition of the motive.
With that said, the later scenes in Friday Foster leave realism to the birds, instead opting for helicopters, machine-gun shootouts, and Grier naked with a man she just met. There’s that blaxploitation element for you, and while Friday Foster‘s direction leaves something to be desired, the ultimate theme – that black power and equality can be diverted even by the blacks they’re attempting to empower – is interesting. The ultimate goal behind the politicians’ meetings is to come up with a way to bridge the gap in equality, and it is a black man who wants to interrupt and kill those that can do it. While white America isn’t behind the attack, there’s certainly that implication – someone is paying our villain to sabotage the peace talks behind the scenes.
It’s a lofty message from a film that really doesn’t live up to blaxploitation’s legacy. Most will be disappointed with Friday Foster, both because of the better films in the sub-genre and because of Grier’s stellar track record before this. Friday Foster lacks the fun and over-the-top sensibilities, and it ultimately fails to capture a compelling picture.
Olive Films has released this on Blu-Ray with good high-definition transfer, except for one small shot that has quite a bit of noise and poor image. The audio is good as well, though, like the other blaxploitation discs they’ve released, suffering from muffled dialogue here and there. No special features included.