Friday, April 2, 2010

The Long Good Friday

"The Long Good Friday" (John Mackenzie, 1980) Dense, gritty film about the London underworld that could just as well be about the British government being undermined by terrorists.

Easter weekend as planned is a good one for
Harold Shand (Bob Hoskins). He's set up an elaborate yacht-party for his investors, a few politico's in his influence and a guest appearance by a U.S. mob-boss (Eddie Constantine), to toast Harold's new developments planned along the Thames dockyards. Everything seems to be in place—the pay-offs to the pols, the cheap Irish workers are kept in line, and the Americans want to help finance the new construction.

Then things start to go North. An old pal of Harold's (
Paul Freeman), acting as a courier to the IRA, has siphoned off some funds, and been murdered in revenge. Harold's mum went off to Good Friday services and, while in the church, somebody blew up the Shand Rolls. A bomb has been discovered in one of Shand's casinos, and he's been getting some stick from Jeff (Derek Thompson), his college-educated lieutenant. Shand and his better half (Helen Mirren) are having trouble keeping the partiers occupied and unaware of the difficulties, especially when one of Shand's restaurants they've set as a meeting place is blown up moments before they step inside.

This gets on Harold's bad side. Harold's a bloke from Stepney, who's risen in the ranks and wants to do his part to make England great again, with international relations enhanced by their entry into the Common Market. He's polishing his image to make further entries into legitimate business.

But all those explosions are getting in the way.

It's a delicate balancing act he must portray in 36 hours: on the one hand, pulling whatever strings (and tendons) he can to find out who's sabotaging him, and on the other, keeping a respectable front for his business partners, current and future.

It's a crackling tale
full of malice, the occasional conflagration, some well-placed bullets, and the occasional sharp edge. For the holidays, there's even a crucifixion (off-screen). Hoskins is brilliant in this, barely keeping a veneer of civility over his tough roots, capable of his own explosions at any time, and Mirren is the one trying to keep him from shattering. Look for the first feature-appearance of Pierce Brosnan as a gum-chewing hit-man, and stay on top of the dialogue—it's pretty complex.

No comments: