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Film: The Long Good Friday
"The Mafia? Hah! I've shit 'em."

I have rarely seen a movie character so completely alive. Shand is an evil, cruel, sadistic man. But he's a mass of contradictions, and there are times when we understand him so completely we almost feel affectionate. He's such a character, such an overcompensating Cockney, sensitive to the slightest affront, able to strike fear in the hearts of killers, but a pushover when his mistress raises her voice to him.

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.

The film was a critical and commercial darling in Britain, but whilst it found favor with American critics, audiences found it too niche, dealing as it did with some very British concerns of the 1970s, such as the EEC, union strikes, the rise of property development over industry, The Troubles, and political corruption. It currently holds a 95% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, however, and some critics consider it to be the best British gangster movie of all time, and a worthy trans-Atlantic counterpart to The Godfather.


This film provides examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Victoria develops one in Jeff.
  • Affably Evil: Harold Shand as it would appear at first (and in certain instances seems genuine), but when he realises the threat of the situation, this fašade begins to fade - see Faux Affably Evil below.
  • Anti-Hero: Harold is introduced as an affable crook and loving husband who is trying to establish a legitimate business deal while under attack from a ruthless and mysterious aggressor. As the film progresses, however, it becomes clear that he's just a thug who is no better than the people after him.
  • Axe Crazy: The opinion of everyone sane (the detectives, the Mafia) of the IRA.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: The last scene has Harold being driven off at gunpoint by the IRA to be killed.
  • The Brute: Razors, Harold's gangland enforcer
  • Corrupt Politician: Councillor Harris
  • Dark Mistress: Victoria (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 adviser to him.
  • Dramatic Irony
    Harold: It's like f**king Belfast on a bad night!
  • 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.
  • Did You Actually Believe?: No one actually says it to Harold, but it's pretty clear from the smirks what they're thinking.
  • Evil vs. Evil: It's London Gangsters vs the Irish Republican Army. Needless to say, there are no heroes in this battle.
  • 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.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Harold would like to present himself as Affably Evil, but it quickly becomes clear he's got quite a sadistic streak and a bad temper that only gets more pronounced as the movie goes on.
  • 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: Jeff's fate due to Harold's Hair-Trigger Temper
  • Hair-Trigger Temper / Hot-Blooded: Harold will go off at the drop of a hat. And it only gets worse as things get more stressful.
  • Homage: The final scene of Harold being taken to his implied death is a homage to the ending of Performance.
  • The Irish Mob: Subverted. Harold thinks that's who he's dealing with, but in reality it's the I.R.A. The kicker is once everyone realises who they are and try to warn him, he continues to treat them as he would the average mobster.
  • 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 are really The Mafia.
  • London Town: Harold wants to develop it.
  • London Gangster: Harold fancies himself the top dog of all gangsters in London.
  • The Mafia: Harold is trying to come to an agreement with them.
  • Not My Driver: Thought you got away with it, didn't you Harold? Your 'chauffeurs' beg to differ.
  • Outside-Context Villain: Harold assumes that he's under attack from a rival gang, and is completely baffled by the fact that it's the IRA. His advisers warn him that the IRA belong to a completely different world than him, and not to treat them like another group of thugs.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: The Mafia, of all people, preach caution and cool headedness. They're not trying to draw attention to themselves. Taken to its logical conclusion in the finale, combined with a little Know When To Fold Them, The Mafia decide to cut their losses and split even after all of Harold's enemies have been killed. When Harold points out it was a "little problem," they retort massacres and explosions are nothing of the sort. They believe he's far too much of a liability. And they are right.
  • 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.
  • Western Terrorists: Harold tries to stiff the I.R.A. This ends about as well as you'd expect.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Despite being warned this is not the case, Harold believes he can simply take out the I.R.A. out like any other of his rivals in London. They catch up to him in the very final scene when he believes he's wiped out all his enemies.
  • You Have Failed Me: Harold glasses Jeff in a fit of rage, after he finds out he used Harold's resources.

The LodgerBritish FilmsLove Actually
LolitaCreator/The Criterion CollectionLord of the Flies
The Last UnicornFilms of the 1980sMadman

alternative title(s): The Long Good Friday
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