Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Film Review – The Long Good Friday

I will admit I hardly recognised the name of the director John Mackenzie when I recently heard his obituary while driving. I will also admit his film The Long Good Friday had passed me by, unnoticed, both in the late 80s and ever since – despite it, apparently, being quite well known. However the obituary did make this film sound quite intriguing and the sort of thing I might find interesting. It promised (not in exactly these words) a gritty comment on Thatcherism and all its horrors. So something that now seems very modern, what with the current financial crisis, government meltdowns, and hard right wing cost cutting agendas. I wonder why I never noticed this film before? All I can claim, in mitigation, is that I looked upon Bob Hoskins, who plays the lead role here, as, shall we say, overrated.

Before we get to the above film lets have a little aperitif. I first watched Just Another Saturday. This was part of the BBC Play For Today series, in 1975, and written by Peter McDougall and directed by John Mackenzie. There is not much of a plot: a young protestant lad goes on an Orange order march in Glasgow with his lodge band; he encounters some protestant verses catholic violence and becomes disillusioned; at the end he desires to escape Glasgow. Still it shows a slice of working class life and has both humorous and gritty moments. In the film's final scenes father and son talk of how these conflicts divide and rule the lower orders. I agree with the political point being made here but felt it was put across in a far too didactic form. Even so a film worth watching.

So after all the hype what was The Long Good Friday like? It's not a bad film, watchable, but overall a bit of a disappointment. It started with a long menagerie of disconnected scenes where you're not quite sure what is happening. Having such an opening is not in itself a problem; it's just here it goes on too long before the main story starts.

Also the film appears to have no protagonist with which the viewer is supposed to identify. Who is the protagonist? If it's Harold Shand, the character played by Bob Hoskins, are really supposed to root for this gang land thug? Having an despicable character as the lead can make for a good film, but when there are no, absolutely zero, characters with redeeming features then you have a grim time of it as a viewer.

Again Bob Hoskins as an actor is allright but I did not find him that exciting. He only appears able to play himself which leaves this character somewhat insubstantial.

I wish I could say better of a film I watched as a result of hearing an obituary. It wasn't a bad film, better than many, possibly better than most, but hardly a great film. Of these two films you should only watch Just Another Saturday.

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