Words: Brody Rossiter
ERIC’S BEEN BLOWN UP
Britain has a rich and long history of producing some of cinema’s most memorable and characterful crime films. From Mike Hodges’ Get Carter to Guy Ritchie’s Snatch, those quintessentially British quirks and traits – whether it is a regional accent or a blackly comic sense of humour – have all formed a successful recipe for producing enduring films that wickedly bob and weave between depravity, violence, criminality and hilarity.
Featuring Bob Hoskins in one of his first major and most memorable roles, The Long Good Friday is a classic tale of a gangster’s trouble at the top. The viewer is introduced to Hoskins’ Harold Shand on the eve of one of the biggest deals of his life. Harold and his “Corporation” already have a profitable monopoly established throughout early 1980’s London, and are now looking to broaden their reach with the aid of an American Mafia investor. Despite having the city planner and police on his payroll and in his pocket, Harold can’t stop an unknown rival from launching a series of lethal coordinated attacks on his friends, family and businesses that not only threaten his deal with the Americans, but his entire stranglehold on London’s increasingly gentrified criminal underbelly.
From a technical standpoint, numerous components of this consummately produced 2K Arrow restoration stand out with a vivid crispness like never before. The Long Good Friday isn’t a particularly pretty picture, but nevertheless, it is a one filled with period charm and personality. Thatcher’s Britain, with its odious concoction of austerity, corruption and greed is crystallised on film. Flash cars, dapper suits and countless bottles of champagne pass through Harold’s “manor”, filling the streets with colour and vibrancy. On film, London is so often presented as a brooding and clandestine capital filled with unseen dangers. Director, John Mackenzie, illuminated and normalised the environment, painting a realistic and colloquial picture that not only felt familiar but also grounded the violence and criminality, heightening its sense of harsh realism in the process. And while shot selection may be somewhat uninspired, the attention to detail in the frame, from locale selection to costume design, is deeply immersive – a trend elevated by the crisp restored picture and colouring. The startlingly eccentric soundtrack filled with chugging futuristic synthesizers, bluesy saxophone and classical string instrumentation, which often finds itself at the forefront of pivotal scenes, is also deserving of much praise.
While watching The Long Good Friday it takes very little time to spot numerous faces and conventions that would go on to define crime and gangster cinema to this day. The film may well be fictitious, but its themes of corruption, perverse ambition, racial tension, terrorism and societal divisions are perhaps at their most pertinent since the film’s original release; offering a sobering realisation that while things may look very different today, Britain’s greatest threats have changed little in thirty five years.
Packed full of engaging and unique characters and fuelled on an uncompromising performance from Hoskins, The Long Good Friday remains a wry, intelligent and ferocious powerhouse of British cinema, and there’s no better way to experience it than this Blu-ray restoration loaded with special features.