THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY
The Long Good Friday was made in 1979 and looks it. It was filmed on location in and around a derelict and rundown London Docklands which now no longer exists, having long since been redeveloped into luxury apartments, glitzy restaurants and shops and swanky marinas for the rich and famous. Yet The Long Good Friday rarely looks its age; many of its themes are both timeless and timely. London, like many major UK cities, is still growing and expanding, the battle for a bigger and better skyline always fought by the rich kids and the financiers and, in the case of The Long Good Friday, by those whose altruistic façade masks a craving to be Number One, the Big Boss.
In a career-making and very probably career-defining performance, the much-missed Bob Hoskins plays shady London gangster-cum-businessman Harold Shand, whose riverboat schmoozing of potential big bucks Mafia investors from New York is interrupted by a worrying spate of attacks on his own people - including his best friend Colin, who is fatally stabbed at a swimming baths after making a pass at a young Pierce Brosnan. With his investors getting edgy and some unknown enemy chipping away at his empire, Harold marshals his resources to find and destroy the culprits before his plan to create a New London in time for the 1988 Olympics (remember them??) is torn apart by the very same ruthless violence which has put him in his own position of dubious power. But in time Harold finds out he’s been outmanoeuvred by an enemy even he can’t hope to defeat as a quiet Good Friday in London becomes a very long Good Friday indeed…
The Long Good Friday remains a gripping, scintillating and visceral modern gangster movie, in its own way the film which launched the likes of Lock Stock, Snatch and a hundred cheap flicks starring Danny Dyer and some blokes who used to be in The Bill. But The Long Good Friday is still the daddy. Its violence is subtle and rarely gratuitous but the film is relentlessly edgy, and as the atrocities visited upon Harry and his people and premises grow in stature, we’re constantly expecting an explosion of fury and bloodshed which ultimately arrives in a ruthless shoot-out at a stock-car racing meeting where Harry, it appears, finally gains the upper hand. Hoskins is wonderful as Harry, a gentleman’s gangster who tortures suspects for information and, when he’s done with them, packs them off home with a grand apiece for their trouble. But he’s ruthless too when he needs to be and Hoskins is breath-takingly good during his rallying-the-troops speech to his audience on his riverboat and later, in the electrifying and unforgettable final sequence where he expresses a dozen mixed emotions without uttering a single world.
But this isn’t just Bob Hoskins’ film. Helen Mirren is superb as Harry’s conscience Victoria and who would suspect that Casualty’s avuncular Charlie, Derek Thompson, could turn in such a muted, subtle and menacing performance as Harry’s right-hand man Jeff. London’s the star too, the deserted Docklands studded with cranes (the shape of things to come), an urban landscape full of struggling people who, has Harry observes at one point, deserve so much more.
Initially underappreciated before its cinema release in the UK - the film underwent several ignominies before it finally saw the light of day as its makers intended - The Long Good Friday has gone on to become acknowledged as one of the great British movies, a cult gangster film which finally broke through and by sheer force of will became recognised not only as a classic of its type, but just a classic movie in its own right. This pin-sharp new Steelbook Blu-ray edition is surely the definitive presentation of an historic, landmark movie, packed with vintage documentaries and interview features which finally do justice to an astonishing, bravura piece of film-making. You must own this film.
Special Features: Director’s commentary / 2006 ‘Making of’ documentary / Interviews / Redubbed scenes / Apache public information film / Souvenir booklet
INFO: THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: JOHN MACKENZIE / SCREENPLAY: BARRIE KEEFE / STARRING: BOB HOSKINS, HELEN MIRREN, DEREK THOMPSON, P.H. MORIARTY, DAVE KING, PIERCE BROSNAN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW