After a weeks’ sorjorn in Auckland New Zealand visiting family, I’m back to resume my weekly film post.
The gangster genre has been a staple in cinema ever since the medium begun. In America, the emphasis tended towards the Mafia and other various ethnic origins, but in the UK the genre was never quite so strong or dominant. British gangster films tended to focus on their working class backgrounds although there was always an undercurrent of vicious violence.
Get Carter, released in 1971, was one of the better British gangster movies, and although I have always admired it, I can’t say it’s a film I find very enjoyable due to all the characters being pretty repellent – including Michael Caine in one of his few really nasty villainous roles.
However, for me, the British gangster film hit the jackpot in 1980 with the release of The Long Good Friday. Although completed in 1979 it was delayed for a year but burst onto the scene the following year as the storyline encompassed the events and concerns of the late 1970s, including political and police corruption and IRA fund-raising.
The protagonist is Harold Shand, a top London gangster, who aspires to become legitimate and is trying to form a partnership with an American Mafia boss; but his world is upended by a series of bomb attacks on his properties and numerous murders of his associates.
Believing a local turf war has erupted, Shand gets all the other gang bosses together in one very unique and unusual place.
Ultimately, Shand learns that people within his own team have been dealing with the IRA, which leads him to violently dealing with them plus setting up a showdown with the local IRA chiefs in London.
Although Shand now believes his enemies are all dead he finds the Americans preparing to leave, having been spooked by the carnage. In response to their dismissive comments about the UK, Shand berates them for their arrogance and dismisses them as cowards. But at the film’s end, Shand will face the consequences of his recent actions.
The film boasts a standout performance by Bob Hoskins which was his breakout role. Unfortunately, over the years, he never quite achieved the same quality of roles, but here he is absolutely dynamic whether showing the character’s ruthless violent streak and/or his character’s humorous cunning intelligence.
Helen Mirren co-stars as Shand’s girlfriend in a role that could very easily have been a cliche but she brings a strength and believability to the character that would see her continue as one of the best film actresses in the last 50 years.
The Long Good Friday is one of the best British gangster movie ever made, arguably the best-ever. It’s a film made with ferocious intelligence, is tightly plotted and with razor-edged thrills it still packs a punch over 40 years after it was first released.
13 thoughts on “WolfmanOz at the Movies #37”
Thanks for that Wolfman.
will have to watch it.
Thanks Woz, appreciate the effort you put into these posts.
Suggestion- maybe we need to wedge a bit of right-Rand analysis into the body of the review? Celebration of craft is all nice for a conservative audience, but we can push the boat out a bit. F’rinstance, touching on the vigilante aspect of Get Carter (as well as the contemporary Dirty Harry and Death Wish), and the corruptive question of pornography in the laissez-faire dandy london (like in The Big Sleep).
Terrific gangster pic. And, incidentally, the first movie I watched on our VHS.
Wouldn’t be surprised if it was based on, with artistic licence, on Bobby Cummines. Who is a rather interesting character in his own right. Hoskins even looks like him. Liked Hoskins in Mona Lisa and Roger Rabbit.
I’ve never seen that one, but anything with Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren in it is just about guaranteed to knock one’s socks off. And Michael Caine. It’s fun that he and Hoskins can do both heroes and villains with such alacrity.
I watched this on Youtube a while back – don’t know if it’s still there. Good movie.
British gangster films are the best. Far more realistic and capturing the daily violence and paranoia of the criminal.
Not stylised and gritty the English gangster is the most vicious, callous and depraived beast.
This film, get career the Krays etc.show them in their natural light.
Thank goodness for the Sweeney, Bodie and Doyle.
With our them Oh the horror, the horror
One Ill have to watch.
Looks good from the clips.
so glad you chose this movie. Seriously, one of THE greatest Gangster films of all time.
I have never seen another movie or actor able to come even close to Bob Hoskins portrayal of his character’s emotions in the final scene of the movie.
A very young Pierce Brosnan also showed what he was capable of in this film. Few lines but good acting.
It’s a mostly ignored gem of a film that I’ve always enjoyed over the years.
Yes and Get Carter is a Great Film with Michael Caine. Brutal stuff and a grim ending. All about getting justice with no cops or the legal mob getting in the way.
Thanks for the reminders. I watched both films around the time they came out and, with you, agree that The Long Good Friday was better. The final images come readily to mind.
Another candidate, the title of which I can’t bring to mind (maybe Law and Order), was the 4 part TV series base on a novel. In 4 parts, it looked at a case of police framing of a blagger (armed robber ). He was a career criminal, but, on the basis that it was time he did some time, police framed him by planting his hair in a cap. (This reminds us that all sources DNA evidence can be planted too). Each part takes a different perspective on the simple plot line: the blagger, the police, the lawyers and the gaol time.
Yes it was Law And Order (1978) – 4 stories within the series were told from a different perspective, the Detective, the Villain, the Brief and the Prisoner.