It’s not the greatest thriller or crime movie ever made, but 1980’s ‘The Long Good Friday’ has a shaky, peculiarly British charm that still makes it irresistible 35 years on. That’s partly down to the combination of Francis Monkman’s synthy score with ample fotage of crumbling London locations – from Brixton to the docks – and partly down to the film’s sense of timeliness.
Writer Barrie Keefe caught the capital at a crossroads as Bob Hoskins’s likeable crime boss Harold Shand finds himself banging the drum for a resurgent city while under fire in different ways from the American mafia and the IRA. Hoskins is given some brilliantly fruity dialogue (‘Frostbite or verbals?’…’That frog doesn’t half know about grub’), although an extended shower scene as he rubs himself down after a killing is hard to take seriously.
Helen Mirren has a sort-of Lady Macbeth role as Shand’s wife, and there’s some fun to be had spotting Pierce Brosnan as a dialogue-free ‘1st Irishman’ and realising that Shand’s wingman is played by Derek Thompson, the actor now best known as Charlie in TV’s ‘Casualty’. In style, the film’s ambition sometimes oversteps its ability, but it’s a rare London gangster film that has something to say about the city and says it with wit and little resort to bloodletting