Saturday, 21 February 2009

The Long Good Friday

The Long Good Friday is the best British gangster film ever made. The film, directed in 1979 by John MacKenzie almost wasn't seen in its original form when financiers ITC opted to re-edit the film to tone down its violence and remove a key element of the story involving the IRA. Luckily, the film was rescued by Handmade films who put the film out intact to great success. At the centre of this film is Bob Hoskins playing the London crime lord Harold Shand who's got a serious vendetta on his hands, as he stands on the cusp of legitimizing his business empire with the acquisition of large sections of London dockland. Fans of Guy Richie will eat this up with its wide-boy Cockney slang and violence. The film includes a rather shocking throat slashing by broken bottle, and in perhaps a nod to the title of the film, one character is found nailed to the floor, crucifixion style. The film must be something of a Richie favorite - he would actually cast two members of the film - Alan Ford and P.H. Moriarty (in Snatch and Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels).

For Hoskins who by 1979 was something of a veteran TV actor, The Long Good Friday was his major breakout role, and from his first scene in the film (memorably to the great theme music) owns the movie. Hoskins invests Harold Shand with great pathos as he walks the line between a proud Thatcherite entrepreneur to vicious mob boss; the latter best illustrated by a dazzling sequence in an abattoir as Shand gathers together all the prominent London hoods and reminds them in no uncertain terms of who's the boss. Also, look out for the justifiably famous climax of the film, a long wordless shot of Shand as he realizes that he now is on the wrong side of the meet hook.

My copy of the Anchor Bay R2 DVD features a rather soft transfer of the film, but carries an audio commentary by John MacKenzie. The DVD was later re-issued with largely the same transfer and commentary but with a 50-min feature on the making of the film. It was part of the Criterion collection in the US but has since been re-issued by Anchor Bay.


  1. I haven't seen this one - it's a film I've meant to see since seeing it on VHS video shelves in the 80's - I just never got around to it. I worked with and quite liked Bob Hoskins 13 years after The Long Good Friday - so I doubly want to see it. Add in that it's from my golden period 1977-1980 (I'll watch ANYTHING made in those years) and I'm now officially itching to see this!

  2. Oh definitely seek this one out Craig, it's a fantastic film, and it has one of Cinema's great last shots... I remember you mentioning that about Bob Hoskins, on Super Mario Brothers wasn't it ? Very cool. Mona Lisa is an incredible film as well... I'd like to Hoskins' 1988 film The Raggedy Rawney which he's become something of a lost film these days I think...