The Long Good Friday is a British gangster film starring Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren. It was completed in 1979 but, because of release delays, it is generally credited as a 1980 film. It was voted at number 21 in the British Film Institute's list of the top 100 British films of the 20th century, and provided Bob Hoskins with his breakthrough film role.
The film's protagonist is Harold Shand (Bob Hoskins), an old-fashioned 1960s-style London gangster who in the late 1970s is aspiring to become a legitimate businessman, albeit with the financial support of the American Mafia, with a plan to redevelop the then-disused London Docklands as a venue for a future Olympic Games. The storyline weaves together events and concerns of the late 1970s, including low-level political and police corruption, Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) gun-running, displacement of traditional British industry by property development, Britain's membership of the EEC (later the European Union) and the free market economy (the latter was strongly in the ascendant at the time the film was made, in the first year of the Thatcher government).
Harold is the undisputed ruling kingpin of the London underworld, when his world is suddenly torn apart by a series of murders and exploding bombs from an unseen foe. Trying to uncover his attackers' identity forms much of the film's subsequent plotline. His ruthless and violent pursuit of leads only points out the small-time tawdriness of the organisation he hopes to legitimise.
Harold discovers that his closest aid accidentally became involved with the IRA in a side-job gone wrong in which several IRA men were killed, and that the IRA holds Harold responsible for those deaths. He acts on the information with the same brutality that first took him to the pinnacle of the London underworld. Thinking he's taken care of the problem now, he meets up with the American Mafia representatives, led by actor Eddie Constantine. However, they decide to leave England because of all the recent chaos.
When Harold leaves their hotel, he gets into his car, which he thinks is being driven by his chauffeur but in fact has been taken over by two IRA men. As the car speeds away Harold is silent, but gives away a range of emotions: at first astonishment, then anger and finally an acceptance of his coming death. He realizes his enemies this time follow motivations and tactics different from those of his past.
- Bob Hoskins - Harold Shand
- Helen Mirren - Victoria
- Dave King - Parky
- Bryan Marshall - Harris
- Derek Thompson - Jeff
- Eddie Constantine - Charlie
- Paul Freeman - Colin
- Leo Dolan - Phil
The film includes a large number of performances by young actors who later became famous.
- Paul Barber (Denzil in Only Fools and Horses and Horse from The Full Monty) plays Errol the Ponce, a police informant who is visited by Harold and his intimidating associate Razors.
- Pierce Brosnan, in his first film role, appears as an IRA hitman.
- Dexter Fletcher is the boy who asks for money to watch Harold's car.
- Karl Howman (Jacko in Brush Strokes) appears as a young Detective Sergeant who enjoys socialising with the criminal fraternity.
- Kevin McNally, star of many films and TV programmes, is seen in a Belfast bar scene.
- P. H. Moriarty ("Razors") and Alan Ford appear as members of Shand's gang. Both would later play chief villains in Guy Ritchie films.
- Daragh O'Malley, who plays Sergeant Patrick Harper in the series of TV movies based on Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series of historical novels, appears as Brosnan's fellow assassin.
- Gillian Taylforth, later of EastEnders fame, appears briefly as a young woman who finds the security guard nailed to the floor of a disused warehouse.
- Derek Thompson, who went on to play Charlie Fairhead in medical drama Casualty appears as Harold's right-hand man.