British gangster film starring Bob Hoskins as Harold Shand, an old-school London Gangster
planning to make the leap from organised crime to legitimate business with the financial aid of some American Legitimate Businessmen
and some potentially lucrative property details. Success is within his grasp when a mysterious group of hitmen start targeting Harold and his organisation, executing two of Harold's closest accomplices and bombing several of his businesses.
His deal threatened, Harold starts to use all his muscle and contacts to try and find out who's attacking him — but when it starts to look as if betrayal could be coming from close to home and prior dodgy dealings might be coming back to bite him, it becomes clear that it's going to be a very long Easter weekend for Harold Shand.
This film provides examples of:
- Abhorrent Admirer: Victoria develops one in Jeff.
- Anti-Hero: Harold.
- Bolivian Army Ending
- The Brute: Razors, Harold's gangland enforcer
- Corrupt Politician: Councillor Harris
- Dark Mistress: Victoria, played by Helen Mirren, is an unusually posh, well-bred version of this, who claims to play Polo with Princess Anne. She acts as something of an advisor to him.
- Dirty Cop: Harold has two detectives on his pay roll.
- The Caligula: Harold starts off as amiable, even charming, but as his grasp on the situation slips he becomes a lot more vicious.
- Development Hell: A variation; the movie was filmed and completed in 1979, but due to various issues did not see theatrical release until 1982.
- It very nearly didn't get a theatrical release at all. The original plan was to re-cut it for television, which at the time would have meant cutting out all the violence and swearing. Thankfully, a campaign by various critics and film-lovers eventually got it the recognition it deserved.
- Did You Actually Believe?: Averted in the film's final scene; no one actually says it to Harold, but it's pretty clear from the smirks what they're thinking.
- Fatal Flaw: Pride. Once everyone else figures out who the Irish gang actually are, they urge Harold to let them have their pound of flesh to settle the grievance and have done with it. But Harold Shand can't comprehend anyone other than him calling the shots in London. This will come back to bite him.
- Gayngster: One of Harold's murdered friends turns out to be one of these. Harold actually seems relatively okay with it, considering.
- Grievous Bottley Harm: Harold finds a reason to glass someone eventually.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: You've probably seen half the cast in something or other, particularly if it was made in Britain, but some notable examples include:
- The film was Bob Hoskins' break-out performance.
- It was also Pierce Brosnan's very first film role.
- Helen Mirren as Harold's girlfriend Victoria.
- Charlie Fairhead is Harold's right-hand man.
- Patrick Harper is Pierce Brosnan's accomplice.
- Brick Top is seen in the slaughterhouse scene as one of Harold's mooks.
- Homage: The final scene of Harold being taken to his implied death is a homage to the ending of Performance.
- Leave the Camera Running: An excellent example in the final scene; just a close-up on Bob Hoskins' face as he silently conveys everything that Harold is thinking as he's 'taken for a drive'. You can practically see the entire movie play out in his head.
- Legitimate Businessmen's Social Club: It's pretty clear who the American businessmen Harold is working with really are.
- London Town: Harold wants to develop it.
- London Gangster: Harold.
- Not My Driver: Thought you got away with it, didn't you Harold? Your 'chauffeurs' beg to differ.
- Ruthless Foreign Gangsters: The Mafia appear, but they are not this, being one of the voices of caution and reason that Harold gradually ignores. The mysterious Irish gang that shows up, however...
- Sawed-Off Shotgun: There's a few floating about.
- Shower of Angst: After Harold kills Jeff.
- The Troubles: When a group of mysterious Irish murderers show up, you know that it's going to be connected.
- Unwilling Suspension: One of the more famous "hanging upside down from the ceiling scenes". The actors had to keep being supported between takes to prevent them passing out.
- Villainous Breakdown: Harold seems to be going through an extended slow-burning one from about a third of the way in. It culminates in him slitting his right-hand man's throat and having his gangland rivals hooked upside down on meathooks.
- Villain Protagonist: For all his pretensions, Harold Shand is not a nice man.
- Western Terrorists: Harold tries to stiff the I.R.A. This ends about as well as you'd expect.
- You Have Failed Me: Harold glasses Jeff in a fit of rage, after he finds out he used Harold's resources.