- Rated R
- Buy the Blu-ray
Reviewed by Ross Ruediger
andMade Films is a production and distribution company that started out as a venture between George Harrison and his business partner Denis O’Brien. Initially it was put together simply to help Monty Python finance “Life of Brian,” but after the success of that film, HandMade kept going and going. The company has gone through numerous changes over the years, and these days their output isn’t nearly as revolutionary as it once was.
The last daring movie they were involved with was “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” although even as recently as on “Planet 51,” HandMade is still something of a brand name. But back in the 80s, they were putting out all sorts of oddball, experimental films, and if you saw the label HandMade on a movie, it was worth checking out. Over the last couple weeks, I’ve reviewed three Blu-rays of HandMade pictures, courtesy of Image Entertainment: “Withnail & I,” “Time Bandits” and “Mona Lisa."
“The Long Good Friday” is the fourth and final film (at least for the time being) in this series, and unlike the other three, I’d never seen it before its Blu-ray release. Unsurprisingly, it was also my least favorite of the bunch, which quite possibly wouldn’t have been the case had I seen it 15 or 20 years ago like the other three, as I was coming at it cold, with no sense of nostalgia. But this isn’t to say I didn’t care for “The Long Good Friday,” which is a fine film for what it is.
Harold Shand (Bob Hoskins) is a well-to-do London gangster who’s seemingly worked so hard at being an efficient bad guy, for so many years, that these days he doesn’t have to anymore. He’s earned the right to be something of a civil man, lording over a violent and corrupt underworld. He’s also on the cusp of making a legitimate business deal involving the 1988 Olympics, which in this movie’s universe will be held in London. If the deal happens, he’ll be the man he’s always wanted to be. It’s Good Friday, and an important day, as a rich Mafioso, Charlie (Eddie Constantine), is coming over from the States to invest in the project, and Harold needs that money to get it going. But suddenly, and without warning, two of Harold’s associates are murdered, and then bombs start going off in Harold’s proximity. He’s got 24 hours to get to the bottom of the mayhem, or Charlie’s going to take his money and head back home.
It isn’t difficult to see cultured moviegoers of the early 80s going ape for this material upon its release. It’s an intelligent, violent film that’s got a lot going for it, particularly through Hoskins’ performance, which is as good as anything he’s ever done (although not quite as engaging as his George from “Mona Lisa”). Unfortunately, most of the supporting players have little depth, but that’s mostly due to the fact that the cast is sprawling, and the film resembles an Easter egg hunt of “Who’s behind all this?” Helen Mirren gets second billing, and is just fine as his longtime girlfriend, although even she feels like little more than a supporting player, especially when compared to her work these days. Keep an eye out for a very young Pierce Brosnan in a pivotal, but mostly silent, role.
It’s also worth taking into account the European political landscape of the time when judging the picture, as it bears heavily on the storyline, but I can’t talk too much more about that without diving into serious spoiler territory. The scenes of violence are frequently inspired, and one scenario, which takes place in a meat packing plant, has an exhilarating shot that I’ve never, ever seen before in a movie. Given how many brutal gangster pictures have dominated the cinematic landscape since, it’s no mean feat that “The Long Good Friday” still manages to work as well as it does, and in fact, the more I think about in hindsight, the more I appreciate it. Maybe ten years from now, after seeing it another half dozen times, I’ll give four stars.
Single Disc Blu-Ray Review:
This being the fourth disc in this series I’ve reviewed, I’m finding it difficult to come up with new ways of saying “It’s acceptable, but one wishes it could look better.” Same goes for the DTS 5.1 track. The opening credits have some flutter, but after that it clears up. There are a few specks of dirt here and there, but overall, I didn’t find myself complaining. I also found a posting on IMDb that claims a previous Blu-ray from Anchor Bay (which was Region 2 perhaps?) had an incorrect aspect ratio of 1.66:1. Here we get a nice 1.85:1 transfer that looks correct and proper near as I can tell. And once again, as with the other HandMade films (“Time Bandits” excepted, maybe), this is a fine disc for the price. Aside from the trailer, there are no other extras.