Sunday 19 December 2010

The Long Good Friday (1980) - John Mackenzie

How bad can one day get?

Bob Hoskins plays Harold Shand, a British gangster-turned-businessman attempting to gain financial support from two American mafia members.  But things turn awry when a series of explosions and killings ruin Shand's plans.  Much of the following narrative involves Shand's hunt for the source of the disruption.  It's a classic British gangster plot with violence, comedy moments and a sharp script, which helped to establish many of the genres conventions that have since become cliched.  The grainy visuals and gritty style are quintessentially British, at times reminiscent of social realism.  And that's before the final speech which compares the "vitality" of Britain compared with the hot dog inventing Americans.

The film does however feel rather dated, not only through the visuals and special effects.  The largely electronic soundtrack, though well composed, is hit and miss in its relation to the narrative: sometimes atmospheric, othertimes jarring and more suited to, say, Miami Vice.  It adds a sense of glamour, along with the fast cars and alcohol abuse, which is contradicted by the visual style.  More so, it cements the '80s context of the film.  The performances too are a mixed bag, displaying a cornucopia of British talent ranging from the excellent Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren to that bloke from Casualty, that bloke from the Flash cleaner adverts and that bird from the cafe in Eastenders.  There's even a brief cameo from (then unknown) Pierce Brosnan.

Though entertaining and (for its time) well made, I don't feel the film has aged that well.  But it's undoubtedly an influential film, particularly on British directors like Guy Ritchie.  As such, it's worth a view as a precursor to Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, or even just for a game of 'spot the celebrity before they were famous'.