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Film / The Long Good Friday

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"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."

The Long Good Friday is a 1980 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 deals. Success is within his grasp when a mysterious group of hitmen start targeting Harold and his organisation, executing two of his 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.
  • 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 fa├žade begins to fade - see Faux Affably Evil below.
  • The Alcoholic: Councillor Harris, to the extent that he starts to become a liability. At the boat party, Harold even tells Jeff to keep him off the booze.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Harold is portrayed as a multidimensional character with enough likeable traits that his implied final demise at the hands of the IRA is rather sad.
  • Ambiguous Ending: Harold is kidnapped and driven away apparently to his doom. However, the writer later revealed that in his mind, he actually survived. In the sequel that was planned but ultimately never made (see Stillborn Franchise in the Trivia tab), he would have been rescued by anti-terrorist police.
  • Anti-Villain: Harold is introduced as an affable boss 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 is quite cruel and can quite compete in his villainy against the people who are after him. However his general aim is always to maintain order, also he is eager to build up his business and improve the future of Britain.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Harold has managed to keep the peace in London for ten years and to keep all his rivals in check, beneath him in the pecking order.
    Harold: Who's having a go at me? Can you think of anyone who might have an old score to settle or something?
    Razors: Who's big enough to take you on?
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: Harold dresses immaculately.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: Razors usually never says anything unless he's asked a direct question by Harold, but he's by far the most violent and dangerous of Harold's thugs.
  • Big Entrance: Harold's arrival at the airport, in full pompous strut, no doubt flaunting his belief that he basically owns London. Driven home further by the background music: an upbeat saxophone riff.
  • Blade Enthusiast: Razors, who sports several nasty scars himself (and a fully appropriate nickname), looks like a seasoned expert when he repeatedly slices up Erroll with a carving blade to extract information from him.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Not entirely bloodless, but the scene where Colin gets stabbed to death is comically, impossibly clean and quick.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: The last scene has Harold being driven off at gunpoint by the IRA to be killed.
  • Brick Joke: First off, London is compared to a bad night in Belfast. In the end it is already likened to a bad night in Vietnam.
  • The Brute: Razors, Harold's gangland enforcer and chauffeur.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Despite being told that even the British Army haven't managed to beat the IRA, Harold is ready to go to war with them. He also tells a New York mafia boss to go fuck himself at the end of the film.
  • The Caligula: Harold begins as a competent mob boss with grand ambitions, who nonetheless seems sane and grounded. After a series of mysterious and violent incidents chip away at his criminal empire, he gradually falls apart; by the end of the film he has slit the throat of his most trusted lieutenant, alienated his most valuable business partners, and had his fellow gang bosses strung up on meat hooks. It all ends badly.
  • Cool Car: Harold's gold Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow with whitewall tyres, registration: HS 10. After it gets blown up, he rides around in a swish dark blue Jaguar XJ6. Jeff also has a classic red early-1970s Mercedes 280SL.
  • Corrupt Politician: Councillor Harris.
  • Covered in Scars: Razors takes off his shirt to reveal three nasty looking scars across his torso which required sixty inches of stitching.
  • Creator Cameo: The IRA driver whose menacing eyes are seen in the rear-view mirror at the end of the film was played by the director, John Mackenzie.
  • Criminal Craves Legitimacy: Harold has been able to bankroll the transformation of the derelict London dockyards into a possible venue for a future Olympic Games, which will allow him to leave the world of crime for good.
  • Cunning Linguist: Victoria speaks French when communicating with the French chef.
  • Dark Mistress: Victoria is an unusually posh, well-bred version of this, who played Lacrosse at school with Princess Anne. She acts as something of an adviser to him.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Jeff appears to be the one. It is invoked in his dialogue with Harold that he is gay however he also hits on Victoria in the lift.
  • Did You Actually Believe...?: Averted. After double-crossing and attempting to destroy the IRA gangster operation in London, Shand is kidnapped by gunmen in the final scene of the film. Neither he nor his captors speak, but one gunman smirks at him. It's pretty clear from the smirks what they're thinking.
  • Dirty Cop: Parky, a senior Met police officer on Harold's payroll (probably a Detective Inspector or Detective Chief Inspector).
  • Does Not Know His Own Strength: Victoria tells Jeff that Harold broke two fine plates while demonstrating their finesse, then says this.
  • Downer Ending: Harry devolves into a completely vicious bastard and just when he thinks he's won, he's abducted by the IRA and driven off to be executed, emotions flashing over his face as he contemplates everything that brought him to that point. The final shot of the film is Harry's resignation and acceptance.
    • Had things gone the way that the creators originally intended, this would have become a subversion. As noted in the Stillborn Franchise entry in the Trivia tab, there were plans for a sequel which would have meant that Harry manages to survive and escape his kidnapping.
  • Dramatic Irony:
    Harold: It's like fucking Belfast on a bad night!
  • Duelling Scar: Razors sports one (vertically) across his right eye.
  • Establishing Character Music: The theme music plays as Harold arrives at Heathrow Airport as if he owns it.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Harold's mother is almost killed via car bomb. Naturally, he's furious.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: It's clear that Harold does love Victoria and is beside himself when he pushes her (out of frustration and wanting to force her to continue their conversation). He's also quite upset when Colin is killed.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Harold clearly disapproves of drugs, as shown by his visit to Brixton, and wants nothing to do with their sale. Additionally, the sight of blighted neighborhoods and poverty offends his sense of civic pride. He also doesn't approve of terrorists like the IRA, though not so much because of their tactics as their anti-British cause.
  • Evil Versus Evil: It's London Gangsters vs the Irish Republican Army. Needless to say, there are no heroes in this battle.
  • Facial Dialogue: The final scene consists of Harold sitting silently in the back of a car and slowly realizing that he is completely fucked.
  • 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.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Jeff briefly panics when the landlord of Harold's pub mentions the Irish.
    • Harold ponders to Jeff if Colin might be the cause of all this trouble. He couldn't have been more right.
    • Harold's rant about the carnage being like Belfast on a bad night.
  • Framing the Guilty Party: An inadvertent example of framing someone guilty for other crimes of a crime they didn't commit. Jeff, behind Harold's back, arranged with Colin to deliver funds raised by IRA sympathisers in England to the IRA. However, they stole money off the top, and then the agents who the money was delivered to were killed by the security services. This means that the IRA are attacking Harold because they believe he was behind the double-cross when — despite his other many criminal activities — Harold honestly had no idea any of this was going down.
  • From Camouflage to Criminal: Harold reminisces about doing his National Service with Colin.
  • Gas Leak Cover Up: This is precisely the excuse Victoria tries to feed the Mafia guys when Harold's pub explodes right before their eyes. Unsurprisingly, they aren't buying it.
  • Gayngster: Harold's murdered friend Colin turns out to be one of these. Harold actually seems totally okay with it. the IRA assassin who murders Colin does so by feigning sexual interest in him at the poolside and locker room.
  • Greed: The whole plot kicks off when Colin steals five grand from the funds he was supposed to be delivering to the IRA.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: Harold makes particularly graphic use of a bottle against Jeff when his bad day finally explodes into a brief, furious frenzy; first he smashes the bottle over his victim's head, then he brutally and repeatedly stabs him in the neck with the jagged end. The sight of blood spraying out of his friend's throat soon calms him down.
  • 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.
  • Instant Death Stab: Colin gets shanked a couple of times in the gut and barely even bleeds, yet he immediately keels over stone dead.
  • Interrogated for Nothing: Harold has Errol the Ponce tortured for information. He later has his rivals captured and brought to an abattoir where they're suspended upside down so he can interrogate them. Both cases are for naught since the problem is far beyond everyone.
  • Interrupted Intimacy: Erroll is naked in bed with a woman when Harold, Razors, and some goons barge into his apartment to torture and interrogate him about the recent events befalling Harold's organization.
  • The Irish Mob: Subverted. Harold thinks that's who he's dealing with, but in reality it's the IRA. The kicker is once everyone realizes who they are and try to warn him, he continues to treat them as he would the average mobster.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Harold tries to get information out of Errol by having Razors cut him with a large knife. Turns out he really doesn't know anything.
  • Just a Gangster: Subverted. Shand strives to become a respectable and legitimate businessman through land speculation aided by some American mob contacts. This goal is undermined when his project starts being attacked and his men killed. Harold thinks he's experiencing a case of this — suspecting treason from his men and believing The Irish Mob is attempting to muscle in. However, he's actually being targeted by the IRA during The Troubles.
  • Large Ham: Bob Hoskins is excellent but it's not exactly an understated performance (for the most part). Even Harold himself is something of a large ham when he's giving an overblown speech to the guests on his yacht, with the Tower Bridge behind him.
  • Leave the Camera Running: Used effectively in the ending as Shand is "taken for a ride". We see him sitting in the back of the car as he visibly reflects on all the decisions he has made that led him to that position. Hoskins was quite against the scene, but apologized to the director when he saw the final product.
  • A Lighter Shade of Black: Harold Shand is a Visionary Villain who wants to change the face of London and is keen on building the new future for Britain. He collides with the IRA who do not have any positive agenda in London.
  • Like a Son to Me: It's never stated, but Harold clearly sees Jeff as this, which makes his betrayal and death sting that much harder.
  • 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.
  • Mafia Princess: Averted. Victoria was originally written as the London gangster counterpart to this trope, as nothing more than an eye-candy Trophy Wife who latched onto Harold for his wealth and power. The bimbo part was rewritten so that Victoria is a woman of class and substance whose relationship with Harold is based on genuine affection and respect.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Harold realizes he's gone too far when he murders Jeff in a fit of rage, even though Jeff went behind his back and betrayed him. We see Harold covered in blood and screaming in a panic afterwards.
  • The Napoleon: Harold, obviously.
  • Not My Driver: Thought you got away with it, didn't you Harold? Your "chauffeurs" beg to differ.
  • Oh, Crap!: In a nice bit of Foreshadowing, Jeff has this reaction when the landlord of Harold's pub mentions a pair of Irishman arriving.
  • One-Book Author: This was Barrie Keeffe's only filmed screenplay.
  • The Oner: The final shot holds on Harold Shand (but occasionally cuts back to his smirking abductors in the front seats) as he's driven away, replaying the events of the last few days in his head. We see him run the gamut of emotions as everything becomes clear to him.
  • Outside-Genre Foe: Harold assumes that he's under attack from a rival gang, and is baffled by the fact that it's the IRA. His advisers warn him that his opponents belong to a completely different world than him, and not to treat them like another group of thugs.
  • Patriotic Fervor: Perhaps Harold's most defining trait (well, apart from being a gangster) is his patriotism towards England and London, and his sense of civic pride as a developer in helping London become an economic powerhouse.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Colin is found dead in a swimming pool. When the owner suggests closing the establishment, Harold insists on keeping it open ("Let 'em enjoy their holiday.").
    • A less wholesome variation later on, with the "dog" being a gang of delinquent street kids who have "minded" Harold's Jaguar (instead of vandalising it). Knowingly, he indulges the pre-adolescent boys with some cash to go and warns not to get drunk, then comments to his henchman that this was how he started.
    • Also he grants a pension of 100 pounds a week to Mrs. Benson, the widow of the driver who took Colin to Belfast.
  • Politically Correct Villain: Harold is fully aware of Colin's sexuality and has no problem with it.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Harold clearly does not approve of all the blacks that now inhabit one of his old neighbourhoods.
  • 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 'Em, 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 that massacres and explosions are nothing of the sort. They believe he's far too much of a liability. And they're right.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: In the end both the Americans and Harold exchange them. First the man from beyond the ocean berates the United Kingdom. Then follows Harold's closing speech ("The mafia? I've shit 'em!") after they tell him the deal's off due to all the bombs going off and whatnot which he extends to Americans in general. ("No wonder you've got an energy crisis your side of the water!")
  • Ruthless Foreign Gangsters: Shand tries to make a property deal with the American mafia, but suddenly all his men start getting bombed (or stabbed in Colin's case), as do his businesses (one goes off, another turns out to be a dud). Shand eventually realizes that he's somehow incurred the wrath of the IRA. Everyone tells him that the IRA is too psychotic to fight, but he tries to out-muscle them. It doesn't go well for him. Interestingly, the Mafiosi are portrayed as simple businessmen who don't want any bloodshed getting in the way of a deal.
  • Same Language Dub: Averted. Bob Hoskins voice was dubbed over by a Wolverhampton actor, for fear Americans wouldn't understand his London accent. After Hoskins threatened to sue Jack Gill and British Lion (the original producers before Hand Made Films bought the rights) the dubbing was removed. He was supported by Richard Burton, Alec Guinness and Warren Beatty.
  • Sawed-Off Shotgun: There's a few floating about, though only the barrels are cut down, not the stock.
  • Self-Made Man: Harold is implied to be this, having come from a working class upringing and being a juvenile delinquent. He greets Charlie as "the kid from New Jersey". Charlie replies with, "the kid from Stepney". A drunken Councilor Harris tries to sweet-talk Charlie by saying that they're both this.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Especially Harold, but most of his guys too. They're London Gangsters after all...
  • Shower of Angst: Harold appears in a shower scene washing the blood off himself after he inadvertently kills Jeff in a fit of rage during a heated argument.
  • Spiteful Spit: A woman dressed in Widow's Weeds lifts her veil to spit at Jeff. Shand assumes it's a personal matter and doesn't think to follow it up until later, when it becomes obvious that there are things going on in his criminal organisation that he hasn't been told about. The scriptwriter Barrie Keeffe drew inspiration from a similar incident that happened to him when he was a reporter.
  • Stealing from the Till: Colin steals five grand from the funds he was supposed to deliver to the IRA. This has disastrous consequences.
  • The Stool Pigeon: Errol the Ponce from Brixton is Parky's top grass. Harold pays him a visit to get information out of him, but he doesn't know anything about the recent attacks.
  • This Cannot Be!: Harold is at a total loss as to what in God's green earth is happening to his men and his businesses when they start getting murdered and destroyed respectively.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Stealing money from the IRA? Really, Colin, what did you think was going to happen?
    • Jeff, after his betrayal is revealed, tries to talk a very upset Harold into working with the IRA, even when he tells him to shut up. This leads to Harold killing him in a fit of rage.
    • To some degree Harold as well, thinking that he could take on the IRA when even the British military couldn't subdue them. Had he just paid the IRA operatives to make peace rather than using it as a ruse to kill them, they may have left him alone and he'd still be alive.
  • 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.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom:
    • Colin skimming from the money he was supposed to deliver to the IRA winds up not only getting himself killed, but brings about his best friend's downfall.
    • Jeff for sending Colin to Belfast in the first place.
  • Tranquil Fury: Harold's silent rage when the IRA assassins get the better of him and take him away. Without saying a word, his final scene shows a full spectrum of emotions from initial fear, seething rage, and finally resignation (with a tinge of gallows humour).
  • 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 fatally stabbing his right-hand man's throat with a bottle and having his gangland rivals hooked upside down on meathooks.
  • Visionary Villain: Harold Shand who is planning to contribute to the future prosperity of Britain.
  • Wealthy Yacht Owner: Harold owns a luxury yacht on the Thames, moored in St. Katharine Docks.
  • Weapon for Intimidation: Harold equips his henchmen with pistols and shotguns to abduct his rivals, but he tells them to "scare the shit out of 'em, but don't damage 'em". Justified, as he wants them to talk.
  • Western Terrorists: Harold tries to stiff the IRA. This ends about as well as you'd expect.
  • What Have I Become?: Harold says something to this effect after lashing out at Victoria during one of his tantrums.
  • Who Dares?: When they're pondering who the person or persons are making all the moves against Harold, Razors poses the question, "Who's big enough to take you on?"
  • Would Hit a Girl: Harold slaps a distraught widow when she starts getting in his face. He also pushes Victoria at one point, though he immediately regrets it.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Despite being warned this is not the case, Harold believes he can simply take out the IRA like they were one of his other 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.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Harold tells Parky this.
    Harold: Don't you ever tell me what I can or can't do! Bent law can be tolerated for as long as they're lubricating, but you have become definitely parched. If I was you, I'd run for cover and close the hatch, 'cause you're gonna wind up on one of those meat hooks, my son.