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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

The Long Good Friday (1980)



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The Long Good Friday is a gritty character study in the guise of a gangster film. Bob Hoskins, in the role that launched his career, plays a London crime ring boss. Someone, for no apparent reason, is leaning on him and his organization, and he's angry and frustrated that he can't stop it. Angry, upset, and hurt, when it comes to light that it might be someone close to him. But maybe not.

He does everything in his power to find out. He exploits his resources, sets his minions to work, calls upon those who owe him favors, leans on informants, the works. It's not so much that the personal assault on his established organization is occurring but that he doesn't know who is doing it or why.

The tragic flaw in Hoskins' anti-hero is that the scope of his vision is simply too narrow. He delivers a warped but oddly patriotic speech at one point in the film, extolling the virtues of his crime syndicate and the great city he works in -- but does he really understand what he's saying? As the movie progresses, it becomes more and more apparent who is attacking him, and the viewer correctly learns before the character does. By then, we can watch the character find out for himself. But the problem is that Hoskins is simply too accustomed to the routine to see beyond the nose on his face. He handles the situation in much the same way, I imagine, that he gained his power in the first place, not realizing how inappropriate and ineffective these standard measures are. He can't see the big picture. One of his associates does, however, and pays the price for it.

The final shot of Hoskins is a classic close-up, a spectacularly memorable cinematic moment. Why does he not look more upset? Because the first inklings of understanding were finally setting in?

The first few minutes of his film are confusing. Stick with it. This British-made crime thriller that isn't about crime is a great cinematic accomplishment.