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Barrie Keeffe's original screenplay keeps the viewer a step ahead of Shand, providing us with a telling but teasingly incomplete glimpse of the misstep by his underlings that has set chaos loose. At the same time, Keeffe underlines the bourgeois pretensions of the rough-hewn, barrel-chested Shand, how the elegant Victoria (Mirren) helps serve those ambitions and the myriad parallels between Shand's minions and the local politicians and police only too willing to join in his scheme. Tart, funny dialogue and alternately playful and pungent Eastertide imagery complete Keeffe's shrewd design--two key scenes, in a meat locker and a warehouse, invoke the Crucifixion itself.
Even with lesser performances, the script and John Mackenzie's solid direction would make The Long Good Friday a keeper but Hoskins's explosive portrait of Shand and his descent toward brutal revenge elevates the film into the very front rank, earning admiring comparisons to TheGodfather, Scarface, GoodFellas and other classics of that genre. --Sam Sutherland
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