LONG GOOD FRIDAY
Reviewed by: Dave Murray
What's it about
On the day he is about to close a major deal and alliance with the American mafia, London gangster Harold Shand's (Bob Hoskins) criminal empire begins to explode - literally! With his enterprises getting blown up and his closest men being killed, Shand has 24 hours to solve the mystery of the worst Good Friday the London underworld has ever seen.
Is it good movie?
Now this is a bloody gangster movie! One of my favourite mobster films that was made in the cinematic wake of The Godfather, Long Good Friday is a colourful and explosive look into the criminal underbelly of London later explored in depth by such directors as Guy Ritchie, but it is also a vehicle for the larger than life presence of Bob Hoskins. Hoskins stars as the brutal and calculating mobster Shand, whose barely concealed Cockney "charm" balances out against his wealth and ambitions. This fictional mobster is brokering a deal to legitimize his business by revitalizing the London docks, when a conspiracy is uncovered which has the IRA taking revenge against Shand's organization and closest friends. Hoskins is intense and vicious in his role, bringing out the Cockney charm of the character as well as his shrewd intelligence and vulgar back alley vocabulary. For me, Hoskins makes this movie the great mob film classic that it is today.
Not that Hoskins is the whole show here. We're also treated to a fine performance from Helen Mirren as Shand's conspiratorial wife, the classic film tough guy Eddie Constantine as an American mobster, a young Pierce Brosnan as an IRA hitman, and even a very young Dexter Fletcher as a street kid. It's like a "who's who" of UK stars, both past and present. The locations are varied and interesting, especially the "abbatoir", a slaughterhouse hung with freshly killed cow meat and a bunch of gangsters and snitches strung up by their feet until they talk. It is still a powerful scene, and kind of this film's equivalent of the infamous horse head scene. Add this to the bloody scenes aboard Shand's yacht (nothing beats a broken rum bottle to the throat to take down a traitor), the explosions, the killings and an enforcer named Razors who likes to cut on people an awful lot, and you've got one hell of a crime drama.
Where the movie falls flat is with a very dated soundtrack (this flick was made during the 30 minutes when synth-pop was the shit during the dull music days of 1979), and gets annoying as hell in a few places. Some of the Cockney dialogue is rather impenetrable, and the story is a little paint-by-numbers with some predictable twists. But I have to say, if I hadn't seen this movie many times before, I would not have thought it would take the IRA angle. But all of these are minor gripes, because this movie kicks a whole lot of asses. The action, characters, pacing, downbeat ending and raw visceral feel of the whole show would inspire so many that came after it, including of course the modern British crime genre. I seriously dig these movies, and this early one is still one of the best. And for fans of mobster movies in general, this one never gets old, even with repeated viewing. A true classic!
Video / Audio
Video: Widescreen - 1.77:1. The movie looks great on this release, and it's obvious where the old film print or flaws in the video transfer have been cleaned up.
Audio: English (2.0 Mono) with English closed captioning. The flick's soundtrack is an awesome mix of 80's and 70's cheese, and the synthesizers come in loud and clear, even in Dolby Mono.
Now this is a pretty decent release for such an excellent movie. Along with the Trailers for both the U.K. and U.S. releases there are Talent Bios, an entertaining Audio Commentary by director MacKenzie where he tells some great tales from the production of a classically modeled story set in the gritty London underworld of the 70's, a Poster and Still Gallery, and a newly created Featurette called Bloody Business, which features new interviews with the cast and crew, and their memories of the production. It's worth the watch, especially for fans of Hoskins. The disc is capped off with a pretty funny Cockney Slang Dictionary which, while not as extensive as the one on the Snatch Special Edition DVD, is helpful in deciphering Hoskins' dialogue in the film.
Still one of my favourite mob movies, Long Good Friday holds up well, despite the cheesy soundtrack and cliched story. It's all about the acting here, folks, with awesome performances from Hoskins and Mirren, and some great supporting roles filled with people who would become fixtures of the Slew of British crime movies that would follow. It's a multilayered and well made movie, and Hoskins' character carries the whole thing on his diminutive shoulders. With a great bunch of features and a decent digital transfer of the movie, this Anchor Bay release is worth owning.