Bob Hoskins was working class and uneducated and the actor that Michael Caine could never be. THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY may or may not be his finest film. None can deny it contains his best moments. Hoskins captures brilliantly internal rage rooted in a contradictory mix of incomprehension, revelation and understanding. THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY is a gangster film with a political message. It anticipates the triumph of Thatcher with dread. The social and political despair and the realisation that Harold the gangster, like the economic miracle of Thatcher, is doomed qualify the film as film noir. Harold is taken silently to his death. The balance of payments deficit reaches record levels.
Harold is top man in the London underworld. Inevitably, other human beings disappoint him. Like any capitalist, he assumes the contracts that he makes with people, often under violent threat, should be honoured. He has Thatcher type ambitions. He wants to be and stay rich and to make Britain great again. Like Thatcher, Harold is deluded. He assumes that greed, or the free market, will reclaim the glorious past. Instead, it merely drives change and encourages usurpers.
Harold is complex. He is loyal to his wife and mother and is capable of love. So that police scrutiny can be avoided his dead friend is taken away in an ‘ice cream van’.
‘There’s a lot of dignity in that,’ says Harold. ‘Colin on top of a Raspberry Ripple.’ But Harold is driven by his will to rule and he has appetites. He is a brutal animal who relishes the ambitions of Thatcher. In her Britain the strong brush aside the weak soft centred products of social democracy.
‘We need the right people to mastermind the new London,’ shouts Harold from the back of his yacht as they sail down the Thames. The gangsters and paid lackeys see opportunities for making money and the land that they will soon own.
The London of THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY has none of the smug sentimental cool of the city adored in SHERLOCK. The gangsters drive Mercedes Convertibles and are oblivious to the grand architecture facilitated by the robberies of imperial conquerors. Their ignorance mocks the romance of the British Empire even though Harold shares those pretensions. None of the gangsters drink beer. They drink whisky or vodka. These brutes have aspiration and realise that something has been denied them. Such men always believe that it can be claimed through money and power.
Although Hoskins dominates the film, Helen Mirren is perfect as the bright girl who knows how to appear classless. Singer, Dave King, was always seriously underestimated and he is equally fine as the policeman, Parky, who believes that law exists to maintain order rather than respond to crime.
‘We can’t have bombs going off,’ says Parky.
Harold is defeated finally by the IRA. Although crucifixion occurs, there is no resurrection in the Easter of THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY. Irish memories of other crimes prevail. But, at least, here, the victims do avenge.
If you want to read more crime and horror click here.