The Long Good Friday
|The Long Good Friday|
|Directed by||John Mackenzie|
|Written by||Barrie Keeffe|
|Produced by||Barry Hanson|
|Music by||Francis Monkman|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
The Long Good Friday is a 1980 British gangster film starring Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren. It was completed in 1979, but because of release delays, it is generally credited as an ‘80s film. The storyline weaves together events and concerns of the late 1970s, including mid-level political and police corruption, IRA fund-raising, displacement of traditional British industry by property development, UK membership of the EEC, and the free-market economy.
The film was voted at number 21 in the British Film Institute's list of the "BFI Top 100 British films" list, and provided Bob Hoskins with his breakthrough film role. In 2016, British film magazine Empire ranked The Long Good Friday number 19 in their list of "The 100 best British films".
A man delivers money to an unknown recipient in Belfast, in the process taking some of the cash for himself. As the recipients are counting the money in a country farm house they are attacked by uniformed gunmen. Soon afterwards Phil, the driver for the delivery, is kidnapped and killed. Later the delivery man, Colin, is murdered at a London swimming pool.
Harold Shand, a London gangster, is aspiring to become a legitimate businessman and is trying to form a partnership with Charlie, a boss of the American Mafia, with a plan to redevelop London Docklands, in association with local construction boss Councillor Harris. Shand's world is suddenly destabilised by a series of bomb attacks on his property and murders of his associates, including his old friend Colin. He and his henchmen try to uncover his attackers' identities by threatening corrupt police officers, informers, and other criminals, whilst simultaneously trying not to worry their visitors, fearing the Americans will abandon him if they think he's not in full control. Shand's girlfriend, Victoria, tells the Mafia representatives he is under attack from an unknown enemy, but assures them Shand is working to quickly resolve the crisis. She starts to suspect Shand's right hand man, Jeff, knows more about who is behind the attacks than he claims.
After some investigation, Shand confronts Jeff, who confesses that under pressure from Councillor Harris he sent Colin and Phil to Belfast to deliver money to the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) on behalf of Harris. He explains that three of the IRA's top men were killed on the same night, after the money was delivered. Shand realises the IRA have come to the conclusion that he sold them out to the security forces and pocketed the missing cash for himself, and are targeting his organisation in revenge. Vowing to destroy the terrorist organisation in London, Shand loses his temper and kills Jeff in a frenzy.
After confronting Harris, Shand sets up a meeting with the IRA's London leadership at a stock car racetrack. He ostensibly offers them £60,000 in return for a ceasefire but double crosses them and has them and Harris shot as they are counting the cash. Believing his enemies are dead and the problem solved, Shand travels to the Savoy Hotel to triumphantly inform Charlie and his assistant Tony, only to find the Americans preparing to leave, having been spooked by the carnage. In response to their derisory comments about the UK, Shand berates them for their arrogance and dismisses them as cowards.
Leaving the hotel, Shand steps into his chauffeur-driven car only to find it has been commandeered by IRA assassins. As the car speeds to an unknown destination, Shand contemplates the inevitability of his fate.
- Bob Hoskins as Harold Shand
- Helen Mirren as Victoria
- Bryan Marshall as Harris
- Derek Thompson as Jeff
- Eddie Constantine as Charlie
- Dave King as Parky
- P. H. Moriarty as Razors
- Paul Freeman as Colin
- Stephen Davies as Tony
- Brian Hall as Alan
- Paul Barber as Errol the Ponce
- Pauline Melville as Dora
- Nigel Humphreys as Dave
- Karl Howman as David
- Gillian Taylforth as Sherry
- Dexter Fletcher as Kid
- Pierce Brosnan as IRA man
- Daragh O'Malley as IRA man
- Kevin McNally as Irish youth
The film was directed by John Mackenzie and produced for £930,000 by Barry Hanson from a script by Barrie Keeffe, with a soundtrack by the composer Francis Monkman; it was screened at the Cannes, Edinburgh and London Film Festivals in 1980.
Under the title "The Paddy Factor", the original story had been written by Keeffe for Hanson when the latter worked for Euston Films, a subsidiary of Thames Television. Euston did not make the film, but Hanson bought the rights from Euston for his own company Calendar Films. Although Hanson designed the film for the cinema and all contracts were negotiated under a film, not a TV agreement, the production was eventually financed by Black Lion, a subsidiary of Lew Grade's ITC Entertainment for transmission via Grade's ATV on the ITV Network. The film was commissioned by Charles Denton, at the time both Programme Controller of ATV and Managing Director of Black Lion. After Grade saw the finished film, he allegedly objected to what he saw as the glorification of the IRA.
The film was scheduled to be televised with heavy cuts on 24 March 1981. Because of the planned cuts, in late 1980, Hanson attempted to buy the film back from ITC to prevent ITV screening the film. The cuts, he said, would be "execrable" and added up to "about 75 minutes of film that was literal nonsense". It was also reported at the same time that Bob Hoskins was suing both Black Lion and Calendar Films to prevent their planned release of a US TV version in which Hoskins' voice would be dubbed by English Midlands actor David Daker.
Before the planned ITV transmission the rights to the film were bought from ITC by George Harrison's company, Handmade Films, for around £200,000 less than the production costs. They gave the film a cinema release.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 97% based on 29 reviews, with an average rating of 8.10/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Bob Hoskins commands a deviously sinister performance in The Long Good Friday -- a gangster flick with ferocious intelligence, tight plotting and razor-edged thrills."
Barrie Keeffe wrote a sequel, Black Easter Monday, set twenty years after the events of the first film. It opened with Bob Hoskins's character; Harold Shand, escaping from the IRA after the car was pulled over by police. Shand would retire to Jamaica, then return to stop the East End being taken over by the Yardies. However, the film was never made. In one of his last interviews, Keefe seemed unconcerned by the lack of development: "In some ways, I’m glad we didn’t because sequels are usually diminishing returns. To put it up there with Casablanca, no one wants Casablanca II."
- Guardian review
- Mark Duguid "Long Good Friday, The (1979)", BFI Screenonline
- "The 100 best British films". Empire. 29 November 2017.
- "Association of Independent Producers' magazine, September 1980.
- "Producer seeks a £ 1m buyer...": news report in movie trade magazine Screen International, 22 November 1980.
- Bloody Business: The Making of The Long Good Friday, documentary film, 2006
- Robert Sellers, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: The Inside Story of HandMade Films, Metro, 2003, pp. 56–70.
- "The Long Good Friday". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media.
- Johnston, Sheila (21 April 2010). "Interview: Barrie Keeffe on Sus, The Long Good Friday and London's Changing East End: Artful dodgers, diamond geezers and the real East End, by one of its leading scribes". The Arts Desk.
- "Barrie Keefe on 'The Long Good Friday'". We Are Cult. 5 September 2021.