Tuesday, July 6, 2010
#26: The Long Good Friday
I went into this film expecting it to be more dynamic and especially more violent than it actually was. In the end, the film is extremely British, almost using a Masterpiece Theater format to tell an extremely dark story of a gangster trying to reform his old ways. The movie has a ton of religious symbolism and social and political relevance for England in 1979, but the movie is really dominated by the appeal of Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren, who give superb performances. I wasn't in love with the film, but these two sustained me through the running time. Hoskins is seething under the surface, desperate to go legit but not understanding how to do it, while Mirren makes for one of the more interesting gangster dames I've ever seen. She makes it difficult to know where her real personality ends and her sophisticated facade begins.
For me, though, the movie suffers from an odd kind of static that doesn't make the film's story pop. The film it most reminded me of was the brilliant The Friends of Eddie Coyle - also a Criterion film - in that both films throw you into the deep end immediately and expect you to swim, pouring on more and more plot as it naturally unfolds, rather than in any kind of conventionally accessible way. But that film's plot, alternately intriguingly complex and shockingly terrifying, rewarded the work put into the first half, while The Long Good Friday doesn't have nearly as much behind it (unless you are seriously invested in the religious and political implications of the IRA and the British mob). The Long Good Friday isn't a great film, then, but Hoskins in particular makes it worth watching.