On the eve of securing a very lucrative deal, East End Gangster Harold Shand’s empire is under threat as a strong, mysterious moves in and attempts to take over.
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This film is often held is such a high regards in British cinema. Directed by John Mackenzie and written by Barrie Keefe, ‘The Long Good Friday’ is considered not just as one of the greatest British gangster films but as one of the best in British cinema (It was voted the 21st favourite British film of the 20th century in a poll carried out by the British Film Institute).
Set on one Good Friday in the late 70’s, East End king-pin Harold Shand (Bob Hoskins) is enjoying living life in the lap of luxury. Life is good for Shand: He has a wonderful wife by his side (Helen Mirren), he ‘runs’ most of the East End of London and he is on the verge of securing a highly profitable deal by buying a dormant dock and redeveloping it for the 1988 Olympic games. On the day he is securing final details with an American financial partner, he receives news that two of his men have been brutally killed and witnessed the blowing up of one of his favourite establishments – an explosion that was meant for Harold Shand.
Shand is dumbfounded. He is confused as to the identity of this mysterious new group that is threatening him after “a decade of peace” (as his associate ‘Razors’ enquires, “Who’s big enough to take on you”). As he follows leads and interrogates suspects, he soon learns the identity of the group that are tackling Shand and his empire; the IRA. This divides some in the group –as they deem the IRA a much bigger threat that originally anticipated. As Shand has no ties with the IRA, he is determined to discover why Shand is being targeted. His search leads his to betrayal from those who he considers close, and is determined to end the violence –one way or another – before it gets in the way of him securing a deal with the American investors.
It’s interesting to compare ‘The Long Good Friday’ to other famous British gangster films. If you look at ‘Gangster No.1’ and ‘The Krays’, for example, most tend to be set in the past compared to when the film was in production. Mackenzie’s brilliant film, whilst being filmed during the late 70s, was interesting because it was a very modern gangster film and it is an interesting element. This modern approach is reflected in the very much contemporary and extremely 80s sounding soundtrack. Whilst the soundtrack does not seem to have heard of the word ‘subtle’, it really emphasises this idea of it being a very ‘modern’ film.