You may have never heard of The Long Good Friday. Maybe you were born in the eighties, maybe you don’t follow British cinema from the late 1970s, maybe you didn’t realize that this was Pierce Brosnan’s first film and also the film that made Bob Hoskins a star. Maybe you didn’t realize that by watching this film, you can finally fulfill your lifelong ambition of watching Bob Hoskins shower for three minutes while awesome synth music is playing. So there you go, you’re welcome.
The Long Good Friday is a period piece extraordinaire. Harold Shand, played by Bob Hoskins is having a really bad couple of days. The London gangster has just returned from a trip to New York where he was trying to partner with the mafia in a real estate development deal that will make his “Corporation” more “legit.” He and his wife, played by Helen Mirren, are hosting two American representatives from that group to close the deal and things start going awry. First the car that is driving Harold’s mom to church explodes. Next Harold’s close friend and associate is knifed in a swimming pool locker room (by Pierce Brosnan! this is Pierce Brosnan’s first film! He doesn’t speak!). More bombs go off and Harold has to figure out who’s behind it before the mafia get nervous and backs out of the deal.
The Long Good Friday was written by Barrie Keefe, an investigative reporter who spent a lot of time with London gangsters in the 1970s. In the movie, Harold Shand’s plans to develop the Canary Wharf docklands areas of London in order to get the Olympics to come to London, was inspired by the plans of the Krays. Yes, the Krays, Ronnie Kray and his brother, something or other Kray who terrorized London in the 1970s. And, perhaps more importantly, Ronnie Kray is the subject of Morrissey’s song The Last of the Famous International Playboys. Sing it with me: “The last of the faaaaammmmoooouuus in-ter-na-tional playboys/ the last of the faaaammmmmmoooouuuss…” etc. etc. And yes, all of life and art can somehow be tied back to a song either by The Smiths or Morrissey and if you haven’t figured that out yet go listen to Louder Than Bombs a few times and we’ll go get some hot pot in Koreatown. Hotpot, that’s a thing, right?
Anyway, back to The Long Good Friday. The movie was originally written to be part of a tv series, but then lots of stuff happened and ultimately it ended up being released in theaters under George Harrison’s company Handmade Films. And, as a side note, if you watch the Criterion Collection version and you suddenly get excited by the X rating that shows before the beginning credits, don’t. I think an X rating meant something different in England in 1979, because there is only mild nudity, light violence and absolutely no swearing in this movie. And I can’t guarantee that about the swearing, because I can’t say I understood every word uttered through Mr. Hoskin’s east side London accent. But I suppose the surprising lack of violence, nudity and cussin’ was due to its television origins. I only bring it up because it is considered the forefather of the British gangster film, which I guess is a thing. Like Guy Ritchie, you know that guy that made all those British gangster films, aren’t they known for foul language and extreme violence? I don’t know because I never saw them, but I’m just pointing it out because I think it’s ironic.
This is a great film. Especially if you like 1970s style cinema: long close ups of people’s faces, awesome synth music, plots that are really really unnecessarily complex. The IRA is somehow involved, I think, and I’m not just saying that because they’re bombing stuff. But it’s good, so watch it!