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  Friday He Didn't Need To Use His AK
Year: 1995
Director: F. Gary Gray
Stars: Ice Cube, Chris Tucker, Nia Long, Tommy 'Tiny' Lister, John Witherspoon, Anna Maria Horsford, Regina King, Paula Jai Parker, Faizon Love, DJ Pooh, Angela Means, Vickilyn Reynolds, Ronn Riser, Kathleen Bradley, Tony Cox, Anthony Johnson, Bernie Mac
Genre: Comedy, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: When Craig Jones (Ice Cube) woke up that morning, he had no idea this would be one of those life-changing days, the craziest Friday of his life so far. He lived in Los Angeles where he had not managed to find a job yet and lived with his parents and sister, where his father (John Witherspoon) would berate him for doing little to secure gainful employment, but at least he felt he was in a better position than his best friend, the aptly-named Smokey (Chris Tucker) who was making his money as a drug dealer. Well, he was supposed to be making money so he could pass on the profits to Big Worm (Faizon Love), but the weed was just too tempting, so he smoked a lot of it himself...

Thus Smokey, and by extension Craig, must find a couple of hundred dollars to pass onto to Big Worm before ten o'clock that evening or else be subjected to the wrong end of a drive-by shooting. But if that sounds like Friday is going to be one of those urban thrillers or crime-related dramas that erupted in the late nineteen-eighties and well into the nineties as African American filmmakers established themselves as a real force at the box office, then... well, let's just say when they were writing the screenplay, rapper Ice Cube and producer DJ Pooh were inspired by Kevin Smith's breakout hit Clerks, which was not a piece that relied on plot for its overall effect on the audience.

So what you had was a hangout movie, a form that found new lease of life in the nineties with efforts from Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused to Britain's Human Traffic across the Pond to Chungking Express on the other side of the world, among many others, it appeared simply allowing your characters the space to exist on film in those hours between the important stuff happening was well and truly in that decade. This would result in styles such as mumblecore, and you can still see the effects of it in later years, but Friday was definitely billed as a comedy through and through, no matter that actually there was a serious message to be found once the denouement showed up.

Before that, instead of a convenience store, our two heroes were largely relegated to sitting on Craig's porch and watching the world go by as Smokey puffed away and his pal was occasionally persuaded to do the same, though his experience with the drug proves less than relaxing, perhaps another subtle message about getting yourself together that its audience would not necessarily expect. Not that the duo were relegated to the same location throughout, though they more or less were on the same street, but the colourful characters who passed by, whether they wanted them to or not, provided the story with its energy, otherwise you would be watching two young gentlemen gradually getting so wasted that they would not be able to hold a conversation, and may not even have been upright after about half an hour.

Interestingly, although Big Worm did pose a threat, going to the extent of fulfilling his drive-by promise, he was not the most menacing villain, that role went to the towering Tommy 'Tiny' Lister, a regular presence in nineties movies seeking a heavy built like a brick shithouse, which he was only to happy to provide. Although we are clear he is a small-time bad guy (he doesn't even have a car, just cycles around intimidating folks), he is nevertheless tough to deal with when he is so prone to violence if he does not get his way, thus is holding the neighbourhood in a reign of terror that it will take Craig to confront. Though Friday was filmed in gang territory, much as Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing didn't mention New York's crack epidemic, this was not concerned with the massive loss of life owed to the gang situation and did not bring it up: Lister's Deebo embodied those issues, and while there were a fair few laughs here, many of them surprisingly juvenile, the conclusion where Craig is tempted to use a gun to settle a score was played deadly serious. That they did not quite pull off this gear change was not to the film's detriment, however: it was curiously admirable.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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