February 27, 2014

Movie Review: Friday Foster

Blaxploitation is a genre I need to explore some more of. There are some really good films that came out of this era. Some more so than others. There are the ones everyone is aware of, Shaft and Foxy Brown come to mind, these are the ones that even non-movie geeks know. But you can dig a little deeper and find slightly more obscure titles (at least by my uneducated estimation) like Black Belt Jones, TNT Jackson, Truck Turner (this is a good one), and Sheba Baby (which I did not particularly care for). Then there are those that when you see them, you wonder what took so long or why they are not better regarded. Enter Friday Foster.

Friday Foster could be said to just be another in a long line of Pam Grier vehicles. At this point she had already become a star following films like Coffy and Foxy Brown, and her women in prison films like The Big Bird Cage and Women in Cages. Still, I think this should be seen with a little higher esteem than as “just another....” If you want to attach that label to any of her films, make it Sheba Baby (released the same year), that one just feels hollow.

This one has some significance as it was an early “based on a comic” movie. It was inspired by and based on the syndicated comic strip of the same name that ran from 1970 to 1974. It was the first strip to feature a black lead character. Sure, the strip ended it's run before the movie came out, but the fact remains that this was a reaction to that and definitely deserves at least a little recognition for that.

Pam Grier stars as the titular Friday Foster, am ex-model who now works as a freelance photographer. Late on New Year's Eve, she gets a call from an important magazine editor for a job. The richest black man in America, Blake Tarr (Thalmus Rasulala), is arriving at a local airport and it is up to Foster to sneak in and snap a few pictures. What she finds, however, is something a little bit different. It is an attempted assassination. Her presence is discovered and she is thrust into a web of intrigue.

Friday becomes a target herself as she teams with a private investigator, Colt Hawkins (Yaphet Kotto), to uncover the truth behind the attempted assassination. Soon she finds herself dealing with a racist senator, a lecherous minister (Scatman Crothers), and avoids the hitman on her tail, Yarbro (Carl Weathers). There is also a fashion designer with a vested interest in the proceedings played by Eartha Kitt.

The movie is well paced and well written. Sure, Grier doesn't get down and dirty like she does in prior outings, but she does play an intelligent, independent woman who is determined to find the truth and has the brains to do it. She is great to watch here as she uncovers a plot that targets all of the most important black men in the country.

Yes, it does sound a little over the top, but not the way it plays out. It is a well made film that draws you in, partially due to Grier's great presence, but as an interesting movie. Good films will find a way to draw you in. Director Arthur Marks does a fine job keeping it all together. Marks cut his teeth on television, directing dozens of Perry Mason episodes, before moving onto exploitation fare such as this, Bonnie's Kids and Detroit 9000.

Friday Foster is certainly worth spending some time with and, while I may be misspeaking here, deserves to be remembered more fondly than it seems to be. It features another good performance from Pam Grier, a great fight between Yaphet Kotto and Carl Weathers, and a plot deserving of comic book roots, along with the notoriety of being based on a groundbreaking comic strip.


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Dell said...

Friday Foster is a solid flick. If you haven't seen Coffy, I recommend checking it out. That's my favorite Pam Grier movie, next to Jackie Brown.

draven99 said...

Funny, I was just watching Coffy earlier tonight! Very good film.

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