← Back to Reviews
#420 - Friday
F. Gary Gray, 1995

Over the course of a single Friday, two friends - one recently fired from his job, the other a two-bit drug dealer - spend their time hanging around in their neighbourhood.

When I first saw Friday many years ago, my initial feeling about it was that it was like an African-American version of Clerks. There are certainly plenty of similarities - the 24-hour timeframe, the confinement to a small area, the two twenty-something leads that are alternately a miserable straight man dealing with relationship problems and an irresponsible slacker who annoys people - but Friday definitely has enough personality to strike out on its own ground. Its setting in a street in South Central L.A. results in a cast that is almost entirely black (save for a pair of Latinos and one Asian, but the briefness of their combined appearances still make them exceptions that prove the rule), which of course plays into a film that starts off relatively light-hearted. The seeds are sown early on with pothead drug dealer Smokey (Chris Tucker) ending up in debt to his boss (Faizon Love) to the point where it could literally cost him his life, while the local neighbourhood bully (Tiny Lister) is constantly dropping by to coerce both Smokey and his best friend Craig (Ice Cube) into either helping (or at least not preventing) him commit his own petty crimes. Amidst all that, Craig has to contend with his newfound unemployment and the fact that he is caught between his shrill, demanding girlfriend (Paula Jai Parker) and his affections for his sister's friend (Nia Long).

The film does a decent enough job of incorporating hood politics into an otherwise goofy stoner comedy, enough so that the second half where the threats of drive-bys and beatdowns don't feel like too much of a shock as the tensions bubbling under the street's somewhat peaceful surface finally explode. Even the inconsistent moralising that permeates the film (Smokey's rampant pot-smoking, though it does end up endangering his life before too long, is still compared favourably to the pathetic life of the neighbourhood crackhead) isn't too much of a problem - at the very least, it doesn't detract from the amusement on offer. Cube and Tucker make for decent enough anchors (with the latter naturally stealing the show with his trademark loudmouth wackiness) to a story that is full of memorably quirky characters, from John Witherspoon as Craig's cantankerous father through to Bernie Mac as a cheerful pastor. There are plenty of great instances of both verbal and physical humour, even if a lot of it does get a little scatalogical (such as Smokey's attempt to relieve himself, which had me laughing so hard I couldn't breathe the first time I saw it). The direction is competent and the soundtrack is full of good tunes. All things considered, Friday isn't quite as good as I remember it being but it is still a very solid and dependable comedy that I will not hesitate to watch if I get the chance.