The Long Good Friday Reviews
Shand has it all. A beautiful wife Victoria, played by Helen Mirren.
A property portfolio that includes pubs, a casino and a yacht. Harold is setting up a multi-million pound deal with the US mafia.
However what Harold doesn't know is that he has inadvertently upset the Irish Republican Army (IRA).
At first Harold or H as he is known thinks he can take them on but he underestimates them. His empire begins to crumble around him.
Yanks. I shit 'em! Look out for Pierce Brosnan in one of his first film roles as an Irish terrorist. Also a young Charlie off Casualty and Kathy Beale off Eastenders.
I would rate this as the best British gangster film ever.
"The Long Good Friday" is another film that has been on my to see list for a long time. It´s a gripping, bleak and violent look upon the London underworld. Harold Shand was Bob Hoskins breakthrough film role and he puts on such a great performance of this quite despicable character, but Hoskins adds as well a lot of depth into Harold. The film has a looming British 80s feeling to it (of logic reasons), but the direction, editing, photography, soundtrack and acting are quite fine. The blend of violent attitude/actions/tactics and who´s dunnit detective work is put together in a fine way by director John Mackenzie and writer Barrie Keeffe. Yes, the storyline is maybe sometimes a bit confusing as there´s plenty to keep track of. And I do love the sort of "open" final sequence. "The Long Good Friday" is I reckon a landmark in the british gangster genre that weaves together events and concerns of the late 1970s, including low-level political and police corruption, IRA fundraising, displacement of traditional British industry by property development, UK membership of the EEC, and the free-market economy.
Trivia: Bob Hoskins voice was dubbed over by a Wolverhampton actor, for fear Americans wouldn't understand his London accent. After Hoskins threatened to sue Jack Gill and British Lion (the original producers before HandMade bought the rights) the dubbing was removed. He was supported by Richard Burton, Alec Guinness and Warren Beatty.
A sequel to was actually announced in 1983 named "Black Easter Monday". It opened with Bob Hoskins's character escaping from the IRA after the car was pulled over by police. Hoskins would retire to Jamaica, then return to stop the East End being taken over by the Yardies. However, the film was never made.
Many gangster films depict the rise and fall of a particular gangster in the course of many years, but this film portrays London racketeer Harold Shand (Bob Hoskins) at the top of his game before it all unravels in a 24 hour period. It's not just a seminal British gangster picture but a full-blown mystery as well full of Cockney slang, political intrigue, social commentary and that posh British snubbery Americans love so much, or so Harold believes they do.
It's the Easter holiday weekend and Harold has just returned home from a trip and although he runs the London underground and came up from a tough existence, he now spends his time on a yacht on the Thames River with his elegant wife Victoria (Helen Mirren). He is looking for financial help from the American mafia to help build an Olympic Stadium on the London Docklands for the 1988 Olympics. As he tries to woo his guests with pompous British arrogance and jingosim about a new chapter of London and their new role as the center of Europe as his closest associates are being murdered.
His chauffeur is blown up by a car bomb outside of the church where he was waiting for Shand's mother and an undetonated bomb is found inside one of his casinos. Harold learns about this by phone and as he listens Hoskins's face tells us everything as the camera cuts to his hand subtly crushes his wine glass. But he can't deal with this at the moment when he is entertaining the Americans. As he gets into his car, that's when his number two man Jeff (Derek Thompson) informs him of the death of his close friend Colin (played by Martin Freeman who is most known by audiences for playing Belloq in "Raiders of the Lost Ark"). He and his wife decide to take the Americans to their favorite pub and just seconds before pulling up to the pub, a bomb goes off. Suddenly, things just got more complicated for Harold. The Americans give him 24 hours to straighten everything out or they're taking their money and hopping on the next plane back home.
Bob Hoskins is wonderful in his breakout role. He plays Harold with the calmness he believes is necessary to get business done, but also has that range of acting that allows him to erupt at any given moment in the film. Often times cinematographer Phil Meheux follows Harold with a handheld camera as he paces back and forth trying to calm himself so he doesn't explode as he starts to breath heavily and drink more. Harold is a completely evil character who treats most characters in the film like dirt, especially when he visits certain lowlife gangsters who deal drugs, something Harold believes is beneath him. Through much of the film, you can't help but feel sympathetic to him because of everything that is happening to him. At times you feel what Harold feels and you may think to yourself, "Why today?" and as Harold slowly learns what is happening so does the audience. The slow buildup makes this story great, but it's the relationship between Harold and Victoria that seals this as one of the greatest British films of all-time.
Helen Mirren portrays Victoria with such elegant sophistication that adds such depth to Hoskins's character. Without Victoria what would Harold be? Victoria is smart, sexy, and like Harold, she is just as shrewd and tact a bussinessman. She claims to have played lacrosse with Princess Anne adding to her background of privilege in contrast to Harold's. Why is a woman of this sophistication and her background attracted to Harold? It's power. She isn't your stereotypical mob moll who is nothing but a prop in the film and portrayed as weak and out of Harold's day-to-day dealings. She is a strong woman and she always remembers to carry herself when around people. When Harold goes off on one of his rages and even he doesn't know what he's going to do, Victoria is able to calm him down and make him think about what he's doing.
The script was written by Barrie Keeffe but modified not only by director Mackenzie but by Helen Mirren who loved the script but didn't like the character she was offered. In the original script, Victoria was basically just what any gangster's wife was. She addressed those concerns and when she was told that changes would be made she signed on to do the picture. When filming was scheduled to begin she realized that much of her role wasn't changed. Mackenzie had her improvise a lot of her lines and build the character as the story progressed. Many of the greatest, tender moments between Harold and Victoria were improvised by the actors themselves. Mirren worked off Hoskins who worked off her and it's fantastic.
One scene in the script called for a love scene between the two as all this chaos was going on, but Mirren didn't like the idea and she convinced Mackenzie it needed changed. The scene turned into a fight between Harold and Victoria that ultimately led to both characters breaking down out of fear of what was going on. As Harold comforts a crying Victoria, you sense the vulnerability Harold is willing to show to his wife but no one else and the same can be said about Victoria in Harold's presence.
One of the most amazing scenes was actually suggested by Hoskins when all the other London gangsters were brought into a abattoir on meat hooks. Meheux even hung himself upside down on a meat hook holding a camera as he is pushed through the abattoir on the track getting a point of view of the gangsters as Harold and his men confront them. Other times Meheux does some fantastic camera movement shooting scenes in continuous takes that were improvised not distracting us from the action and raw emotion of Hoskins.
The film's score works for this picture. It's a tense, rousing, sexy jazz-rock number composed by Francis Monkman who was a founding member of the British progressive rock band Curved Air.
This is a film that works in every level and despite being released 36 years ago, it holds up very well. It's a very brutal film that contrasts capitalism and political terrorism and set the tone for the Margaret Thatcher Era in the United Kingdom. One of the things Harold just can't seem to understand that maybe many British people couldn't understand in the late 1970's and early 1980's, is that you can't reason with terrorism. Money can't solve all your problems and what good is money to political fanatics?