Friday, 18 July 2008

The Long Good Friday

My favourite British gangster film is The Long Good Friday. Naturally, the brilliant original version of Get Carter runs it close, but the 1979 movie starring Bob Hoskins as the ebullient London villain Harold Shand is unbeatable, at least to my mind. Everything about it seems right, a feeling that I found confirmed when I watched it again on a 2-DVD set that included not only a first rate ‘making of’ feature, but also a CD of the terrific, driving soundtrack by Francis Monkman, who has never done anything better.

One of the reasons why The Long Good Friday is so good is that, on first viewing, it is hard to fathom what is going on – yet, when you know the story, it is possible to watch the film several more times, in open-mouthed admiration at the skill with which the pieces are put together.

The original script by Barrie Keeffe was called ‘The Paddy Factor’, a title which unwisely hints at the key to the story. Director John Mackenzie was surely right to change the title. Helen Mirren is superb (as so often) as Harold’s sexy, classy moll, and the minor characters are equally well cast. Pierce Brosnan, in a small but important role, made an immediate and very chilling impact.

Yet the film really begins to Bob Hoskins. His one-liners are hugely enjoyable, but best of all is the final scene, when the camera focuses on his changing expressions as he comes to terms with what is going to happen to him. It’s a stunning piece of acting, and utterly memorable. If you haven’t watched this film before, I envy you. A great pleasure lies ahead.


Vince said...

You're so right about so much, particularly the Monkman score and that closing shot. A tour de force on Hoskins's part. I've wondered if the end shot in last year's Michael Clayton is an homage of sorts, with George Clooney playing the opposite reaction.

j. morris said...

So glad you recommended this film. It's one of my favorites too. Bob Hoskins is amazing. And he also gets the palm for best portrayal of a private eye on screen -- Eddie in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" of course!

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks.I haven't yet seen 'Michael Clayton', but it sounds like I should do so soon.