Monday, May 19, 2008

Random DVD round up 4: THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY - Hubris, Nemesis.

I'm setting up the biggest deal in Europe with the hardest organization since Hitler stuck as swastika on his jockstrap.The LONG GOOD FRIDAY isn't quite a pantheon movie, purely because it's early 1980s saxophone-heavy score has dated badly. But to all other respects, this British gangster film is an absolute classic. And in view of Sir Bob Hoskins' role in last weekend's opener, DOOMSDAY, I decided to revisit the film that made his name as a screen actor.

THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY was directed by John Mackenzie and written by Barrie Keefe, both of whom had, like Mike Leigh, cut their teeth producing TV plays for the high quality British series "Play for Today". With THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY, they got the chance to aim for something altogether more violent, explicit and tricksy.

The movie is set in the East End of London on the cusp of the Thatcherite era when Britain dragged itself out of economic squalor by any means necessary. Gangster Harold Shand epitomises this hubristic desire to make good. Unsatisfied with running the East End, he wants to redevelop the East End partly to give something back to the Ordinaries (as Sir Alan B'Stard might say) but mostly to rake in the phat cash.

Harold has a boat and a posh girlfriend (Helen Mirren) to complete his social aspirant pose. ("The Yanks love snobbery. They really feel they've arrived in England if the upper class treats 'em like shit") He even has some American backers that he's wining and dining over Easter weekend. ("It's Good Friday. Have a Bloody Mary!") But the deal turns sour as his businesses and people start getting targeted by the IRA. ("You don't crucify people! Not on Good Friday!") Just watch Bob Hoskins reactions when he realises that his best mate has been assassinated. It's all there - grief, vulnerability, rage, violence, incomprehension. The rest of the film sees Harold try to uncover who's after him and why, indulging in some vicious torture on the way. It all ends in a plot resolution that is audacious in its nihilism and absurdity and a five minute close up that shows Bob Hoskins at his best and a director brave enough to try it. Pure class.

THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY premiered at London 1980. It is available on DVD. Apparently the rights to a remake have been bought and Paul W S Anderson (of RESIDENT EVIL fame) is slated to direct.

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