Years before the flashy show-off antics of LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS came along, The Long Good Friday showed everyone how it was done - this classic movie easily beats GET CARTER into the top spot of "best British gangster movie ever made". Set over the course of a gruelling 48 hours, The Long Good Friday is an often tense, theatrical, and suspenseful thriller with an unusual plot - gangster Harold must turn detective, using his unorthodox methods, to discover who is responsible for a sudden campaign of violence against him. His methods include slashing up a well-known grass, hanging up suspects in an abattoir along with the carcasses, and committing unreasonable violence to all and sundry. The gangster is played by the one and only Bob Hoskins.
Now, I know a lot of people will not be convinced by the authenticity of Hoskins - probably best known to American audiences for his role in WHO KILLED ROGER RABBIT? - playing an East End gangster, but his role is a tour de force here and one he has not matched since. Hoskins creates a violent and unpleasant little man, but is never anything less than likable throughout - you come to sympathise with, and care for his character. Hoskins' superb acting - especially the well-remembered ending in the taxi, where he goes through 360 degrees of emotions using his facial expressions only - is something to behold and holds the film together throughout. On top of this, the excellent cast includes Helen Mirren as his long-suffering wife, a good supporting role from Derek Thompson (BBC1's mild-manned "Charlie" in CASUALTY) who is involved in the film's nastiest scene worthy of a video nasty, P.H. Moriarty as the imposing right-hand man Razors, and a cast seemingly populated by actors and actresses that would go on to achieve fame in later years (Gillian Taylforth, Dexter Fletcher, Paul Barber, Pierce Brosnan).
The movie has some spectacular set-pieces, usually involving exploding buildings which come as big surprises, as well as my favourite unexpected moment when two men are gunned out of a glass window on to a race track below. For the most part, the film is a detective story with tons of tension as time ticks down, and you can't keep your eyes off the screen. The last half an hour gives the opportunity for Hoskins to become king of the world, but you know it won't be long before it all comes crashing down for the offbeat and daring conclusion. A true classic, worth watching by all and sundry, this has a superb script full of genuinely witty humour, and a story and characters epic enough to make it feel like a Shakespearian tragedy.