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The Long Good Friday
reviewed by Donald Melanson

April 18 , 2006 | British gangster films have a long history, but the most recent entries in the genre like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Layer Cake owe perhaps their largest debt to John Mackenzie's brilliant film The Long Good Friday. And judging by the "special explosive edition" packaging on it's latest DVD release, Anchor Bay seems to be aiming this disc squarely at fans of those movies.

The Long Good Friday was previously released as part of the Criterion Collection, which should tell you something about how highly it's regarded, but that release was non-anamorphic and had no extra features beyond a pair of trailers. Anchor Bay manages the rare feat of one-upping Criterion, offering not just a great new anamorphic transfer, but a ton of extras as well. But first a bit on the film itself.

Bob Hoskins stars as mob boss Harold Shand, a breakthrough performance for him and one of the best of his career. Shand has proudly brokered ten years of peace in London but suddenly someone seems to be targeting him, murdering some of his close associates and barely missing him at one occasion. Shand then sets out on a rampage to find out who's got it in for him, no matter how powerful they might be.

The supporting performances are also excellent all around -- especially Helen Mirren as Shand's girlfriend Victoria, and Eddie Constantine (of Alphaville) as an American mafia boss.

Coming at the very end of the 1970s, The Long Good Friday set the standard for some of the great crime films of the next decade -- in particular one of my favourites, William Friedkin's To Live and Die in L.A. And, of course, Brian De Palma's Scarface.

Anchor Bay packs this new DVD to the brim, with a commentary by Mackenzie and a nearly hour-long documentary on the film featuring interviews with most of the key participants. The disc also includes the film's U.S. and U.K. trailers, a poster and stills gallery, a brief cockney slang dictionary, and the complete screenplay in PDF format.

Donald Melanson is the editor-in-chief of Mindjack and a freelance writer and journalist. In addition to Mindjack, his work has appeared in The Globe & Mail, Engadget, and MovieMaker Magazine, among other publications.

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