The Long Good Friday at 40: Best British Crime Thriller Ever Made?

John Mackenzie’s classic British crime thriller The Long Good Friday will be 40 years old (or 41, bearing in mind that it was completed in 1979) this year.
The movie pivots around the IRA taking on Bob Hoskins’ London gangster boss Harold Shand at a time when he’s trying to woo the Mafia to invest in his London Dockland development scheme. 
The ensuing carnage (multiple killings, explosions and general mayhem) causes the Mob to pull out, with Shand vowing to reach out to the Common Market (as was) as his new partners:

The Long Good Friday - Bob Hoskins monologue

40 years on – how things have changed…
The Unionists (who wish to remain part of the UK) are more likely to resort to violence over the ‘customs border in the Irish Sea’ than the Nationalists – those who desire a united Ireland.
And instead of Shand’s ambition to partner with the EU as equals… we’re going cap-in-hand to the US for a trade deal – chlorinated chicken and all.
Truly a bizarro/topsy-turvy world.
More fool us.
Europe speech:
Politics aside, the movie is a gripping and very funny classic, with a wealth of acting talent on display, including (aside from Hoskins): Helen Mirren, Paul Freeman (Belloq in Raiders of the Lost Ark), a young Pierce Brosnan
And…cult actor Eddie Constantine as NY Mob boss Charlie.
Constantine made in career mostly as a film actor in Europe, and was a particular favourite of Jean-Luc Godard, who cast him as Private Eye Lemmy Caution in over ten movies, most notably 1965’s dystopian sci-fi picture Alphaville:


Constantine also worked with arthouse directors Lars Von Trier, Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Mika Kaurismäki. Long Good Friday‘s dialogue crackles, often peppered with Cockney rhyming slang, which unfortunately may have made it difficult for US audiences to follow. Here are a few:

THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY, John MacKenzie, 1979 - Beauty & The Beast

And it boasted a great, propulsive theme from Francis Monkman:


The Long Good Friday - Main Title (2016 Stereo Remaster)

Long Good Friday writer Barrie Keefe’s actually wrote (but thankfully never shot) a sequel called Black Easter Monday. The Long Good Friday itself seems ripe for a remake and/or a sequel...
Keefe: There may be a remake set in Miami and directed by Paul WS Anderson, who made Alien vs Predator. It fills me with absolute loathing and wouldn’t have much to do with what I’ve written.

But I did write a sequel, called Black Easter Monday. It was set 20 years on and the Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren characters were still around – Harold comes back to East London to rescue it from the Yardies, having been in Jamaica where he took his retirement.  

So – if you haven’t yet seen The Long Friday, you’re missing out on a first-rate thriller.

Stephen Arnell

Culture Comment Content Provider. Portrait courtesy of artist Darren Coffield. 'Non satis me tempo'