The Long Good Friday

*****

Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

Bob Hoskins in The Long Good Friday
"Nearly 30 years later and John Mackenzie’s classic is still the yard-stick for any new entry into the genre."

If you were to ask any modern cinema viewer to name some good British mobster movies, chances are they’d list Guy Ritchie flicks Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. If you were then to ask the more discerning viewer, they’d probably cite the excellent Daniel Craig effort Layer Cake or turn of the century yarns like Sexy Beast and Gangster No 1. However, aside from mentioning Get Carter, the sign of a film fan who really knows his stuff (and has taste) is a mention of The Long Good Friday…

As the undisputed kingpin of the Seventies London underworld, top gangster Harold Shand (Bob Hoskins) is looking to expand his empire. With the help of his wife (Helen Mirren) and right-hand man Jeff (Derek Thompson), Harold plans to unite finances with the American mafia. However, when an unknown opponent starts killing off his men, he frantically tries to sort things out while his world falls apart around him.

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Directed by John Mackenzie and produced for a paltry £930,000 (unthinkable nowadays), The Long Good Friday might not have the gloss or glamour of today's Brit-based gangster tales, but in all other departments it is the daddy. Delayed for a year due to political ramifications that had Thatcher's team up in arms (Shand is the epitome of Thatcherite values), Mackenzie's classic has a cutting script, loads of realistically brutal violence and some of the most quotable dialogue this side of Michael Caine's Jack Carter. Topping all of this off is an impossibly catchy, soul-wailing saxophone score by Francis Monkman.

In his breakthrough role, Hoskins gives a towering performance. Effortlessly switching from charismatic businessman on top of the world to vicious warlord struggling to comprehend how easily his empire is crumbling beneath him, Shand is an interesting anti-hero, who barks out much of the quotable dialogue with the same ease as most people breath air. As for the quality of his final scene, it will leave you as speechless as Hoskins was when he performed it.

Elsewhere, while excellent support is provided from the likes of Mirren as the beautiful wife, Eddie Constantine as the American gangster supremo and Dave King as the bent-copper ("Parky!"), the rest of the cast draw attention as a list of familiar faces. Aside from the likes of Pierce Brosnan and Dexter Fletcher, we also see Paul Barber (Denzil from Only Fools And Horses), Gillian Taylforth (Cath from Eastenders), Derek Thompson (Charlie from Casualty), Karl Howman (Jacko from Brush Strokes), TV stalwart Kevin McNally, Alan Ford (Bricktop from Snatch) and PH Moriarty (Hatchet Harry from Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels). From start to finish there’s a lot of "I know his face!"

Nearly 30 years later and John Mackenzie’s classic is still the yard-stick for any new entry into the genre. Modern British gangster movies? The Long Good Friday s**ts 'em.

Reviewed on: 25 Mar 2009
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The Long Good Friday packshot
A London kingpin is attempting to broaden his empire... but soon finds his gang are a target.
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