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With: Bob Hoskins, Helen Mirren, Dave King, Bryan Marshall, Derek Thompson, Eddie Constantine, Paul Freeman, Leo Dolan, Kevin McNally, Patti Love, P.H. Moriarty, Ruby Head, Charles Cork, Olivier Pierre, Pierce Brosnan
Written by: Barrie Keeffe
Directed by: John Mackenzie
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 109
Date: 11/01/1980

The Long Good Friday (1979)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Cheeky 'Friday'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

John Mackenzie directs this cornerstone of the British gangster genre with a minimum of flash and a dash of grim realism that has allowed the film to age quite well.

Bob Hoskins turns in a ferocious performance as Harold Shand. While in the middle of a huge European real estate negotiation with major players from all over the world, including a powerful American (Eddie Constantine) bombs begin going off all around Harold, in his car, in a favorite pub, irrespective of who else may be around. Harold shifts into high gear, working full time to discover who's after him and to hurry the deal through.

Helen Mirren co-stars as his crafty wife, Victoria, a serious diplomat who is clearly the key to Harold's success, and Pierce Brosnan appears in an early role as a hitman who masquerades as a gay playboy.

Mackenzie gets wonderful moments from these and many other accomplished character actors, and the film moves purposefully, but the director lacks the visual grace to successfully maneuver the plot. He gives us dialogue when we should be getting something more cinematic. That aside, The Long Good Friday is still a sizzler, and clearly the precursor for later entries like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

Incidentally, The Long Good Friday was produced by Beatle George Harrison's short-lived company Handmade Films, which also gave us Life of Brian, Time Bandits, Mona Lisa and Withnail & I.

The Criterion Collection's 1998 DVD is still in print, but Anchor Bay's 2006 version, which had more extras, is not. Now, in 2010, Image Entertainment releases a Blu-Ray edition with no extras. The picture is only a slight improvement over the DVD edition, but thankfully this edition comes with optional English subtitles to help with the thick, working-class English accents. Die-hards will probably want to own more than one version, since none of these seems to be definitive.

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