Society is Dead, Long Live Society. Adding to it’s roster of outstanding moments in the annals of film, Arrow Films have just released the beautifully newly restored Blu-ray of John Mackenzie’s East End gangster classic The Long Good Friday. And the 80s have never looked so wonderfully dated.
Restored with the approval of the original cinematographer Phil Meheux, it really captures the heart and lack of soul of the emerging Thatcher era. Set in a time and area (East End of London) prior to the docklands development, it’s striking alone just to see the city scape without the familiar cold steel fingers of finance towering into the skyline, effectively giving the finger to the rest of society.
The ignition of that capitalist green eyed/green backed lustre pulses wildly in the eyes of Harold Shand (Bob Hoskins in probably his greatest role ever), a ‘businessman’ aka local gangster who sees the potential infinite retail value of the docklands he grew up on, and now runs with a lead cosh. With the supply and support of American Mafia money, there is serious bread to be made. All the success seems a forgone conclusion while he’s cruising down the Thames entertaining his New York visitors, destined to moor at an island of gold. That wouldn’t make for much of a movie though, and of course they hit rough waters, well immediately.
There’s a fantastic clash of dynamics involved in the story that unfolds. The tacky wealthy sheen of greed and seemingly immortal power of capitalism, where money can effectively buy anything it greases, coming up against a power that has existed since the dawn of man, idealism. If you’ve not seen it before, I’ll not spoil it, suffice to say as powerful as money is deemed to be, there’s things that are far more powerful.
The era is beautifully captured not only in the decor, costume, soundtrack and locations, but also in a fantastic script, that actually had to be changed for release in America, so it could be understood. But if you are familiar to London life, there’s a wonderful use of colloquial sayings that truly hark from times long gone.
With a sterling cast including Helen Mirren (Victoria, Harold Shand’s wife) and numerous other English character actors, and not forgetting legendary Irishman (and future Bond) Pierce Brosnan in his first acting role, there are plenty of great familiar faces to spot throughout.
The fact that the movie is absolutely of a different era is also one of it’s greatest strengths, both timeless and prescient at the same time as we enter into a similar era at the lack of mercy of a capitalist Conservative government.
As if the movie on it’s own wasn’t reason enough to own it (and it is) there’s also a rich amount of extras on the Blu-ray, from the making of the movie, to a wonderful amount of interviews with the director, writers, cast and cinematographer developing a huge satisfying back story to the project, which as it turns out nearly got released. And you’ll NEVER guess who came along to save the day and got it into the cinemas, but you’ll have to buy the Blu-ray to find that out.
The Long Good Friday is out on Blu-ray now.