Thursday, 7 May 2015


"What I'm looking for is someone who can contribute to what England has given to the world: culture, sophistication, genius. A little bit more than an 'ot dog, know what I mean?" I was three years old when The Long Good Friday came out, so ask me what my favourite Bob Hoskins movie is and I'm likely to say Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Not only that, I lived and breathed Nintendo as a boy (still do) so ask me what my second favourite Bob Hoskins movie is and I'm likely to say... let's not go there.

Some films pass you by, The Long Good Friday is one of those films. I didn't really get into gangster movies until I started watching The Sopranos on TV. Then I got sidetracked by the likes of Al Pacino and early Robert De Niro. The Long Good Friday, John Mackenzie’s iconic thriller, is often cited as the best British gangster film of all time. So now is probably a good time to play catch-up. 

The Long Good Friday rocketed Hoskins to international stardom, a well known fact that I had trouble digesting after watching Super Mario Bros. Not that you can blame Bob for that one, but I was young and impressionable at the time and didn't understand what all the fuss was about. Make no mistake about it, I do now. This is Bob's movie. Hoskins is fantastic in The Long Good Friday and he's not the only one.

Helen Mirren had agreed to play the part of Bob's partner if the role was re-written. Those promises were only realised during shooting, and the part of Victoria was adapted as they went along. Originally she was supposed to play the part of a dumb bimbo, but this is Helen Mirren we're talking about, so in the new version Victoria is an intelligent, upper-class mistress. Paul Freeman (Raiders of the Lost Ark) appears briefly, as do Dexter Fletcher, Gillian Taylforth, the near-legendary Alan Ford and James Bond's Pierce Brosnan, in his first screen outing. His appearance is fleeting, silent and memorable.

Bob plays Harold, a prosperous English gangster, about to close a lucrative new deal with his American backers (the Mafia to you and me) when bombs start blowing up in inconvenient places. A car bomb almost kills his Mum, another bomb blows up his pub, and all around him friends are being stabbed and murdered. A mysterious syndicate is trying to muscle in on his action and Harold wants to know who they are. "You don't crucify people! Not on Good Friday!" He finds out soon enough, after chewing on some delicious dialogue, and The Long Good Friday talks its way into cinematic legend.

The score is strangely alluring, blending creepy Carpenter-esque electronic symphonies with belting saxophone beats. The cast is on top of its game, with stand-out performances from Hoskins (naturally), Mirren and Derek Thompson (the most recognisable face from Casualty) as one of Harold's most trusted associates. The dialogue is mint, especially when it comes from the mouth of Hoskins. Lines like, "There's a lot of dignity in that, isn't there? Going out like a raspberry ripple," sound so much better when they come from Bob. 

This new release from Arrow Video includes audio commentary by director John Mackenzie, 'Bloody Business', a documentary about the making of The Long Good Friday, including interviews with John Mackenzie, stars Bob Hoskins, Helen Mirren, Pierce Brosnan, producer Barry Hanson and Phil Meheux. Brand new interviews with Barry Hanson, Phil Méheux and writer Barrie Keeffe, as well as 'Hands Across the Ocean', a comparison of the differences between the UK and US soundtracks.

"Nothing unusual, he says! Eric's been blown to smithereens, Colin's been carved up, and I've got a bomb in me casino, and you say nothing unusual?" The Long Good Friday is a true 80s gem; without a doubt one of the greatest British gangster films of all time. Hoskins has never been better, London is the perfect backdrop and the dialogue is as sharp as a tack. On Blu-ray, sourced from the original negative for the very first time, The Long Good Friday shines brighter still. 

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