The Long Good Friday (1980) – Film Review

The Long Good Friday Film Review

Director: John Mackenzie
Cast: Bob Hoskins, Helen Mirren, Paul Freeman
Certificate: 18

By Sarah Morgan

The music. The script. The acting. The direction. Occasionally all these things come together perfectly and create something really special. That was certainly the case with The Long Good Friday.

British cinema has produced its fair share of brilliant crime thrillers over the years, from Brighton Rock to Get Carter, and director John Mackenzie’s 1980 classic deserves to stand alongside them.

The Long Good Friday Film Review

Bob Hoskins plays Harold Shand, a London gangster trying to go legit by developing London’s then-dilapidated Docklands area, albeit via investment from a shady American with links to organised crime.

“An enemy of the IRA”

However, Harold’s dream looks set to be shattered when his organisation is targeted by bombers for reasons he doesn’t initially understand. Eventually, over the course of the titular day, he pieces together the fact that thanks to the machinations of someone close to him, he’s inadvertently made an enemy of the IRA – a group who may be too big even for him to tackle on his own manor.

Hoskins is electrifying as Shand; he may have played many memorable roles after The Long Good Friday, but none were as powerful as this. He’s matched by Helen Mirren as Shand’s classy girlfriend Victoria. She signed up for the project on the understanding that the character would be far more than just as gangster’s moll; Victoria gives Shand style and class, as Mirren does for the film itself.

Other faces to look out for include Derek Thompson, who’s about as far away from his Casualty alter ego Charlie Fairhead as he can get, and Paul Freeman, whose character’s murder marks the start of Shand’s nightmare. A young Pierce Brosnan also pops up as an Irish assassin in his film debut.

The Long Good Friday Film Review

“Taut screenplay”

Barrie Keeffe’s taut screenplay, which wastes none of the 1hr 45mins runtime, and Francis Monkman’s unforgettable, atmospheric score are also crucial to the production’s success, while views of London’s Docklands before the developers moved in make it, in a weird way, an important historical document.

The disc’s special features include a fascinating ‘making-of’ documentary, which was clearly produced some time ago (Hoskins, who has been dead for a decade is among the talking heads), but nevertheless offers wonderful insights into what went on behind the scenes – including the fact that it almost didn’t make it to our screens due to some of its backers believing it was too violent.

Well, it is violent, but it does take place in a gangster’s world; better to show that realistically rather than risking giving a false impression by depicting villains as lovable rogues.

And if you only watch one scene, make it the last one, an oft-copied but never bettered moment in which Shand realises what fate has in store – it’s a masterclass in acting from the much-missed Hoskins.

  • 4K (2160p) UHD Blu-ray presentation in Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible)
  • Original uncompressed PCM mono 1.0 and Dolby Atmos audio
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Audio commentary by director John Mackenzie
  • Bloody Business, a documentary about the making of The Long Good Friday, including interviews with John Mackenzie, stars Bob Hoskins, Helen Mirren, Pierce Brosnan, producer Barry Hanson, and cinematographer Phil Méheux
  • Hands Across the Ocean, a comparison of the differences between the UK and US soundtracks
  • Q&A with Bob Hoskins and John Mackenzie, moderated by Richard Jobson
  • Interviews with Barry Hanson, Phil Méheux, writer Barrie Keeffe, first assistant director Simon Hinkly, and assistant art director Carlotta Barrow
  • Original trailers
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Hannah Gillingham
  • Foldout poster featuring newly commissioned artwork by Hannah Gillingham
  • Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring writing on the film by Mark Duguid, an excerpt from Titan Books’ Very Naughty Boys: The Amazing True Story of Handmade Films by Robert Sellers about the making of The Long Good Friday, and contemporary reviews of the film
The Long Good Friday is available on 4K UHD from

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