Saturday, 27 July 2013
Who Lit The Fuse?
'The Long Good Friday' takes two bete noirs of the seventies - gangsters and the IRA - and makes them fight, like 'Alien Vs. Predator' with worse teeth. it's a superb film: lean, savage, surprising - and the ending is one of the most unnerving in British cinema.
Bob Hoskins plays Harold Shand, a pugnacious East End crook who, having risen to the top by killing all of his opponents, is now looking to consolidate his position by doing a deal with the Mafia to develop what is now known as Docklands, just in time, he hopes, for Britain to host the 1988 Olympics. Without Shand's knowledge, a few of his mob have (rather unwisely) pissed off the Irish Republican Army, who then go after Shand and his boys with all the knives, guns, bombs and masonry nails they have at their disposal.
A film rich in dialogue, atmosphere and performances, 'The Long Good Friday' packs about three hours of story into just over an hour and a half and, like all the best tragedies, ends up with more or less everybody dead, lost or facing disaster or, in Harold's case, a mix of all three, as we never find out exactly what happens to him, although I think its safe to assume the very worst.
Perhaps the benchmark for the British gangster genre, how can you not love a film where Belloq from 'Raiders Of The Lost Ark' gets knifed trying to pick up Pierce Brosnan? Or where Denzil from 'Only Fools & Horses' gets his bare arse slashed with a machete? Or, best of all, where Charlie from 'Casualty' is stabbed repeatedly in the jugular vein with a broken bottle? All in all, it's a pretty stabby sort of film (although there are also shootings and blowing ups): brutal, brilliant, British.