So you've seen Lock, Stock, Honour and Obey Sexy Gangster No. 1 Layer Cake and you think yer hard? Well yer nothing, not even a fuckin' toe rag, until you've clocked the biggest, baddest Brit gangster movie of 'em all, The Long Good Friday.
(1980. Colour. Script: Barry Keeffe. Direction: John MacKenzie. Cinematography: Phil Meheux. Score: Francis Monkman.)
It's Good Friday and Harold Shand (Bob Hoskins) has just Concorded back to London from the other side of the pond. He marches through Heathrow as the credits roll over the brassy bouncy theme song (think Roy Budd meets Elton John), every cocky little inch the Napoleon of the London underworld ("Who's big enough to take you on?" "Well, there were a few." "Like who?", "Yeah, they're all dead.").
He's got bent city aldermen and the filth on his payroll and he's about to go seriously legit, having stitched up a pact with the US Mafia to wash their casino skim through redeveloping the London Docklands.
To seal the deal, he just has to wine, dine and sweet talk a Yankee mob boss (the late great Eddie 'Alphaville' Constantine) over the long Easter weekend while showing off his London manor. Piece of cake, right?
But someone has just declared war on Harold. ("Nothing unusual," he says! Eric's been blown to smithereens, Colin's been carved up, and I've got a bomb in me casino, and you say nothing unusual?")
So for starters, Harold and his faithful minder Razors ("Or as the youth of today call him, the human spirograph.") start checking a few leads out ("Go on shoot him! Put some muck on the walls.").
But no joy there, chummy, and things keep escalating ("You don't crucify people! Not on Good Friday!"). Someone out there really wants the big smoke's godfather wrecked and ruined.
Meanwhile his upper-class mistress (Helen Mirren) tries to hose down the Mafia bigwigs ("The Yanks love snobbery. They really feel they've arrived in England if the upper class treats 'em like shit.") who are getting freaked out by the level of violence in merry olde England.
So Harold pulls out all the stops, sending his mob-handed and weaponed-up crew out ("Remember, scare the shit out of them, but don't damage them. I want 'em conscious and talkative. And lads, try and be discreet, eh?") to literally turn the London underworld upside-down.
And just as Harold finds out whom he's really up against, the Mafia bails 'cos it's just getting too rich for their blood. Harold takes this badly ("A sleeping partner's one thing, but you're in a fucking coma!") but remains undaunted and decides to go all continental instead ("I'm setting up the biggest deal in Europe with the hardest organization since Hitler stuck a swastika on his jockstrap.").
All he has do now to win his promised world is personally settle one outstanding account. And he does. But the other side doesn't keep books like decent gangsters. Also they employ a silent but nubile young Pierce Brosnan as one of their main killers.
The final scene between him and Bob Hoskins, underpinned by Francis Monkman's killer soundtrack, is pure "Death On The Serengeti" evil cat meets big elephant face off with neither twitching more than an odd muscle. Best screen showdown ever. And I say that as a hardcore Sergio Leone aficionado. It really is that good. (OK, your mileage may vary here, you fucking toerag.)
GrogFlog’s verdict: "It's Good Friday. Have a Bloody Mary." 9 out of 10 thumps around the earhole.
Coming soon: Yes, finally Oliver Reed and irradiated kids, how opera and splatter flicks can play together well and a big rabbit punch for a truly crappy movie that tried to sell itself otherwise.