The Long Good Friday

The Long Good Friday

Infobox Film
name = The Long Good Friday

amg_id = 1:29922
imdb_id = 0081070
director = John Mackenzie
writer = Barrie Keeffe
starring = Bob Hoskins
Helen Mirren
Dave King
Bryan Marshall
Pierce Brosnan
Paul Freeman
producer = Barry Hanson
music = Francis Monkman
cinematography = Phil Meheux
budget = £930,000
distributor = British Lion Films
Handmade Films
released = United Kingdom November 1980
United States 2 April, 1982
runtime = 114 min.
language = English

"The Long Good Friday" is a British gangster film starring Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren. It was completed in 1979cite web|url= |title=British Film Institute website] but, because of release delays, it is generally credited as a 1980 film.


The film's protagonist is Harold Shand (played by Bob Hoskins), an old fashioned 1960s-style London gangster who is aspiring to become a legitimate businessman, albeit with the financial support of the American Mafia. The storyline weaves together the events of the late 1970s, including low-level political and police corruption, IRA gun-running, the displacement of traditional British industry with property development and the emerging free market economy.

Harold is the undisputed ruling kingpin of the London underworld, when his world is suddenly torn apart by a series of murders and exploding bombs from an unseen foe. Uncovering his enemy's identity forms much of the film's subsequent plotline. His ruthless and violent pursuit of leads only points up the small-time tawdriness of the organization he hopes to legitimize.

The story seems to hinge upon an act of betrayal by one of Harold's closest aides, the implications of which only become clear near the film's climax, when the solution to the mystery is suggested though not spelled out. He acts on the information with the same brutality that took him to the pinnacle of the London underworld in the first place, but his enemies this time follow motivations different than those of his local rivals.

The American Mafia representatives decide to leave England because of all the killings but Harold is determined to stay, saying that he will become a legitimate businessman. When he leaves the hotel, he gets into a taxi that sharply pulls out from the hotel zone. Harold realises that his girlfriend, Victoria, is not in the car and sees her in the back of another car being driven away by armed men. Harold finds himself at gunpoint from the front seat passenger, and realises that he's going to be killed.


The film was directed by John Mackenzie and produced for £930,000"Association of Independent Producers' magazine, September 1980] 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."Producer seeks a £1m buyer...": news report in movie trade magazine Screen International, 22nd November 1980]

The original story had been written by Keefe for Hanson when the latter worked for Euston Films, a subsidiary of Thames Television. Euston did not make the movie 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 movie, not a TV agreement, the movie was eventually financed by Black Lion, a subsidiary of Lord Lew Grade's ITC Entertainment for transmission via Grade's Associated TeleVision (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 perceived as the glorification of the IRA and it was scheduled for transmission with heavy cuts on 24th March 1981.

In late 1980, Hanson attempted to buy the film back from ITC to prevent ITV screening the film with these cuts which 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 British Midlands actor David Daker.

The rights to the film were eventually bought from ITC before the planned ITV transmission by George Harrison's company Handmade Films for around £200,000 less than the production costs. They gave the movie a cinema release.


The film was shot on location around London including:

*Heathrow Airport.
*St Katharine Docks - Harold's yacht is moored on the Thames there.
*St George in the East (CofE) Church - used for exterior shots of the church where Harold's mum goes to a service and when his Rolls Royce is blown up in the churchyard.
*St Patrick’s Church (RC), Greenbank, Wapping - used for the interior scenes of the Church service.
*Canary Wharf/West India Docks is the venue for Harold's proposed marina development. The future location of One Canada Square is clearly visible as his yacht tours the site. There is also a small model of the proposed development in Harold's yacht.
*Paddington station.
*King George V Dock in the Royal Docks, now the site of London City Airport - Harold has a meeting here.
*The Savoy Hotel.
*Wigmore Street.
*The Salisbury pub, 1 Grand Parade, Green Lanes, Harringay - used to represent Fagan's Pub in Belfast.
*The Waterman's Arms pub, Glenaffric Avenue, Isle of Dogs - upstairs room used to represent the casino room where Harold meets with his firm.
*The Governor General pub, Northover, Downham, S.E.London - since closed and now housing a petrol station - used to represent gangster's nightclub in S.E.London.

Early roles for famous actors

The film includes a large number of performances by young actors who later became famous.

*Paul Barber (Denzil in "Only Fools and Horses" and Horse from "The Full Monty") plays Errol the Ponce, a police informant who is visited by Harold and his scary associate "Razors".
*Pierce Brosnan, in his first film role, appears as a hired assassin.
*Dexter Fletcher is the boy who asks for money to watch Harold's car.
*Karl Howman (Jacko in "Brush Strokes") appears as a young detective-constable who enjoys socialising with the criminal fraternity.
*Kevin McNally star of many films including "High Heels and Low Lifes" and latterly seen as one of Johnny Depp's sidekicks in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" film series, and as a corrupt Police Chief in TV's "Life on Mars" has an early role in a Belfast bar scene.
*P. H. Moriarty ("Razors") and Alan Ford appear as members of Shand's gang. Both would later play the chief villains in Guy Ritchie films.
*Daragh O'Malley, who plays Sergeant Patrick Harper in the series of TV movies based on Bernard Cornwell's "Sharpe" series of historical novels, appears as Brosnan's fellow assassin.
*Gillian Taylforth, later of "EastEnders" fame, appears briefly as a young woman who finds a man nailed to the floor of a disused warehouse.
*Derek Thompson, who went on to find fame as Charlie Fairhead in medical drama "Casualty" appears as Harold's right-hand man, Jeff.


The film was spoofed in one year's edition of Comic Relief. Titled "The Wrong Good Friday," it featured Bob Hoskins asking for a payment from Jimmy Nail, although Hoskins' character had come to collect on the wrong date. Clips are featured in the DVD "Seriously Funny."


In May 2007 it was confirmed that a remake was being planned by Handmade to start filming in Miami in 2008. Paul W. S. Anderson is to direct. [cite web|url=|title=BBC News - Entertainment - Long Good Friday gets US remake]


External links

* [ Criterion Collection essay by Michael Sragow]

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