Thursday, November 29, 2012

My Favorite Era: The Long Good Friday (1980)

The Long Good Friday is possibly my favorite gangster film, second only to The Godfather.  A neat little British film from 1980, it stars Bob Hoskins as Harold Shand, a nasty little bulldog of a criminal who runs the London underworld.  The movie follows him as his life gradually goes to hell after a misunderstanding with the local chapter of the IRA.  Great acting, a lightning fast pace (for a 114 minute film, that's quite good) and a clever script make this one hell of a great movie.  Let's take a closer look.
  • I wrote about Handmade Films in the Water post and they are behind this one as well.  It was their third release.
  • Just a technical note, I'm fairly certain the U.S. VHS release was from Thorn EMI and later HBO Video.  Theatrical distribution was done by Embassy.
  • To the movie, the score by Francis Monkman is great with a pounding main theme.
  • I love how the plot is set up with Colin (Paul Freeman) running an errand and flirting with a guy at a pub while a series of what will out to be IRA hits go on.
  • Bob Hoskins is truly the center of the film here.  He's always been good (even in the bad films) and here he presents a ferocious, ambitious criminal who desperately wants to be seen as a big shot.  He also adds a layer of humanity (as much as one can when hanging rivals from meat hooks and stabbing people with broken wine bottles) to the man as he slowly begins to crumble.  It's a simply fantastic performance.
  • Equally good is Helen Mirren as Victoria, Harold's lover.  She acts as an anchor for him, keeping things in order and letting the audience see a more tender side (well, sort of) of him that is essential if the movie is going to work.
  • I'm also amused by the early appearance of Pierce Brosnan as a silent IRA hit man.  We first see him knifing Paul Freeman's character to death and he pops up in the last scene as well.  It's nothing you could really call a great performance but he certainly shows the presence that would net him some pretty choice roles later on.
  • The events of the film unfold while Harold is trying to court some American mobsters, namely Charlie (Eddie Constantine).  I sort of feel the movie is a bit of a dark comedy in parts with all the running around, trying to reassure Charlie everything is all right.
  • It's honestly a little hard for me to really talk a bout this one since the real pleasure of the movie is going into it blind and simply watching it unfold.  The script is constructed magnificently and John Mackenzie does a fantastic job directing it.
  • The final shot of the film is an amazing closeup of Harold as he realizes just how screwed he is.  It's a brilliant bit of silent acting from Hoskins, subtle and effective.
 The Long Good Friday is one of the unsung classics of British cinema and film in general.  Great acting, a clever script and endlessly watchable, it's one you should definitely seek out.

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About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.