The Godfather, Goodfellas, Casino, The Sopranos. There’s something about the mob that makes for classic movies. Maybe it’s the violence. Maybe it’s the glamorous lifestyle. Maybe it’s the chance to take a look at a redefinition of the family. Whatever it is, organized crime has made for compelling movies ever since Howard Hawk’s original Scarface back in the 1930’s. The genre is practically as old as cinema itself. Lest we Yanks get too cocky, we can’t forget that there have been plenty of great gangster films from across the pond, such as Guy Ritchie’s Snatch, Matthew Vaughn’s Layer Cake, or the original Get Carter. Well, I now have another film to add to the list of great British crime picture’s, 1980’s The Long Good Friday, and while it might not be as great as the film’s I just mentioned, it’s definitely worth a watch for everybody that loves a good mobster picture.
The Long Good Friday follows a couple explosive days in the life of Cockney mob boss Harold Shand (Bob Hoskins). Harold is on the cusp of making a huge and very lucrative business deal that will allow him to leave his life of crime and become a legitimate business-man. However, his life gets thrown into chaos when a car-bomb that was meant for his mother blows up one of his associates, a bomb nearly goes off in a casino his owns, and his closest consiglieri is stabbed to death at a pool. Harold manages to escape all of this basically unharmed, but he now must figure out who is after him and how to stop them, or else the American mafiosi that are to be partners in his new deal will pull out and his big plans will come out from under him.
Bob Hoskins is perhaps at the best I’ve ever seen him in this movie. He’s fiery and passionate and at times down right terrifying. After seeing one of his explosions of rage in this film, it may color all of the scenes from Who Framed Roger Rabbit from my childhood in different and less pleasant ways. I feel like James Gandolfini probably got a lot of inspiration for how he played Tony Soprano from Bob Hoskins performance in this film and that’s definitely a compliment. He can be philosophizing one second and stabbing someone to death with a broken bottle the next. An incredibly young, beautiful, and damn near unrecognizable Helen Mirren plays Harold’s wife Victoria. It’s no wonder she aged so well. She was gorgeous when she was younger. Also, there are two blink and you’ll miss it cameos from a super young Pierce Brosnan in the film as well. I had to go to IMDB to be sure it was him.
The movie might have ran a little too long, and at times there were some pacing problems that made me a little bit antsy, but don’t let that discourage you from giving this one a go. For the first real gangster picture that I’ve reviewed for this thing, I was not remotely disappointed. You might want to turn on the subtitles for the movie however. The primary players in the film all have incredibly thick Cockney accents and pepper their dialogue with a lot of obscure British slang and that makes it hard to follow exactly what’s happening at times. If you like gangster movies or a good old fashioned crime thriller, you should give this one a whirl. I’ll think you’ll have a good time.
Final Score: B+