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4.4 out of 5 stars
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4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 21 October 2015
I really enjoyed this film, originally a BBC Drama. It is a 2 DVD set running for 233 minutes and captivating all the way through. Set in the 1960s it is loosely based on life and events in that decade. A 'long firm' is a fraud that uses a trading company set up for fraudulent purposes; the basic operation is to run the company as an apparently legitimate business by buying goods and paying suppliers promptly to secure a good credit record, then screwing suppliers and departing with the money. They then set up again under another name and this firm is run by Harry Starks (Mark Strong) who also happens to be gay. He also owns a London nightclub funded from the proceeds of the 'long firm'. Another key part is that of Lord Edward Thursby (Derek Jacobi) also gay, and set up wickedly by Harry Starks who has him eating out of his hand having stitched him up with gay guys and taken photos of them, then blackmailing him to do exactly as he is told in high places. At times it is hilarious and I couldn't stop laughing. It does bring to life the atmosphere of the London scene in the 1960s more so than most films I have seen set in this decade. There is an interesting scene in which Harry Starks books Judy Garland (played superbly by Tracie Bennett) to appear at his club. There are many twists and turns in the plot. Great entertainment.
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on 24 August 2014
Mark Strong is superb as Harry Stark; 1960's London racketeering boss, intellectual thinker and, via his London Club, a lover of young men. He's dangerous in his use of torture and is violently ruthless in his pursuit of money, although he won't hear a bad word about Judy Garland. Strong's performance is mightily impressive, especially when you consider that Derek Jacobi appears in another seamless performance as a convincing homosexual peer of the realm who becomes increasingly involved with, and dependent upon, Harry Stark's largesse. It takes a great actor to outshine the great Derek Jacobi, but on this occasion Mark Strong achieves this with his pulsing understated performance remaining superb throughout. The series reflects obvious echoes and tones of the real 1960's London with reflections of the Krays and various heinous characters such as Jack `The Hat' McVitie being evident. Glamourous women and homosexuality spice up the storylines, which are all well written and utterly absorbing. Establishment society, for all its tradition, is also exposed as a rather seedy and needy thing that criminal impresarios such as Harry Stark are delighted to exploit. The sub-standards of the Metropolitan Police are exposed via several individuals whose corruption and immorality fall well beneath those of hardened but strangely altruistic Harry Stark. The Long Firm is a fully-fleshed series with richness of scene and characterisation that you simply must own.
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VINE VOICEon 17 October 2004
A sensational performance from Mark Strong as gangster Harry Starks dominates this excellent adaptation of Jake Arnotts superb novel. Radiating a simmering menace underneath a convivial urbane exterior Starks is prone to outbreaks of explosive violence or more unexpectedly moments of empathy and vulnerability. It says a lot for Strongs portrayal that he's utterly convincing in either mode or that he makes this unpleasant character compelling and seduces you into caring what happens to him.
Told over four episodes, each one concentrates on a different character that is drawn into Starks inner circle. There's Teddy Thursby, a Tory M.P and a closet homosexual trapped in a sham marriage who is seduced by the easy access Starks social circles give him to pliant young men. (Starks too is homosexual) He in turn offers Starks the chance to mix in more elevated company and polish the rough edges of his working class exterior. It soon becomes clear who is most be-holden to who in this unlikely alliance and Thursbys dawning realisation that the man he is so implicated with is in fact capable of extreme savagery is fascinating. He is also beautifully portrayed by Derek Jacobi and you can almost smell the sweaty clammy terror emanating from him as Starks tempestuous personality unfolds like a spider's maw.
The second is centred on Jack the Hat played with nervy skittish glee by Phil Daniels, a small time crook and Drug dealer and casual acquaintance of Starks who through an escalating series of events ends up paying a very high price for the company he has chosen to keep and the type of life he has chosen. In the book this character meets his demise at the hands of the Krays but that element is exempted from this adaptation robbing it to some extent of the powerful impact it had in the book.
The third story revolving around good time girl turned "Choreographer" Ruby Ryder is the weakest of the three but is still compelling thanks to Bob Costigans salacious turn as bent copper George Mooney who's scheming and double crossing ends up putting Starks in prison.
Which introduces us to Lenny; a criminologist who takes a class in prison which Starks attends and becomes fascinated by his desire to learn and educate himself but quickly is intimidated by his ruthless reptilian logic. When Starks escapes his "Friendship" with the criminal leads him to an act that he could never have envisaged and the realisation that there is nothing as weak as a man who is willing to be led.
This is a riveting drama and at times a seriously powerful one. The temptation to lighten Starks character up thus making him more appealing must have been a seductive one in terms of the attempts to win ratings but thankfully the producers resisted doing a "Buster" on Harry Starks. But Mark Strongs performance radiates the sort of black velvet charisma a person like Starks would need to have to thrive and it,s his presence that lends The Long Firm the emphatic stamp of authority it needs to be as magnetically convincing as it is.
Awards should follow, especially for Mark Strong.....and if they don't, well then someone should get the poker and brazier out.
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In the 1960s London gangster Harry Stacks aims to create his own empire. At the moment the signs are good, money rolling in, but is his finger truly on the pulse or are his many projects all destined to fail? We see him through the eyes of four who know him well: a decadent peer; an actress who never quite made it; a wily petty crook; a criminologist eager to write his biography.

The times are evocatively recreated, the cast doing full justice to challenging roles. Standouts are Mark Strong, superb as gay, stylish, dangerous Harry, Derek Jacobi as the disreputable lord totally out of his depth. Lena Headey appeals as Ruby, trying to update Harry's ailing club whilst grooming for stardom young (untalented) Tommy, his latest protege. Thoroughly enjoying himself is Phil Daniels as drug-riddled Jimmy living dangerously on the edge. Shaun Dingwall impresses as well-meaning prison lecturer Lenny, forever speaking in polysyllabic impenetrables. Very much making his presence felt is George Costigan, chilling as a thoroughly bent cop, he and Harry clearly on collision course.

Atmospheric, brooding, sometimes downright unpleasant, the series owes much to its powerful central performance. This, so often menacing, can also both move and occasionally be funny. (The final episode is full of ironic humour - not least when Harry tells Lenny shooting a gun is like firing a waterpistol, only with a different outcome). Especially touching throughout is how Harry does not realize he is a relic of the past, failing for example to recognize the stars he idolizes are now all well past their prime. (The portrayal of Garland in freefall particularly disturbs.)

Two commentaries. No other extras. In many ways this series truly delivers, deserving more recognition than it perhaps now receives.
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on 24 August 2017
Enjoyed a novel angle of gangster land.....
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on 5 September 2017
absolutely superb. Riveting performances by all the lead characters especially Derek Jacobi.
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on 29 August 2017
A clever take on the gangster genre.
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on 31 August 2017
top film
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One of those enigmas that the industry occasionally throws up is why is Mark Strong such a genuinely impressive actor on television yet so astonishingly bland whenever he appears in a movie? He's certainly at his very best in The Long Firm. The BBC series got lost in the tail-end of the avalanche of post-Guy Ritchie British Mockney gangster movies, but this four-part TV drama is in a class of its own. Each seen through a different character's eyes (Derek Jacobi, Lena Headey and Phil Daniels), the first three episodes are superb in their evocation of the late 50s and 60s and the milieu underachieving third-league homosexual ("I'm not gay, I'm a homosexual") Jewish East London gangster Harry Starks (Strong, living up to his name) and his delusions of respectability and love of Judy Garland and Dorothy Squires. The final episode is less successful, largely because it is filtered through Shaun Dingwall's shallow and too comically stereotyped sociology professor who learns his own mediocrity through Harry's intellectual outgrowing of him - the scenes with Strong are excellent, but when the focus is on Dingwall it's too much a soft satire of 70s. Yet even that lapse of judgment can't detract from the overall quality of the series - this is the real deal and deserves to be far better known.

Extras on this widescreen disc are sparse - simply a producer/director audio commentary with Strong on the first and fourth episodes - but with a show this good, who needs all the trimmings?
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on 16 November 2015
Over four episodes, with four different points of view, we get to "know" Harry Starks, crime boss in 60's Soho. A homosexual politician ( Derek Jacobi), an actress down on her luck ( Lena Headey), a small-time crook and a sociologist all interact with Harry Starks, and are, one way or another, mesmerised by the man. And Mark Strong gives an extraordinary, layered, nuanced performance, one of the best I've seen. He's charming, frightening, and touching in equal measure. The intrigue is not always sustained, some parts are weaker than others, but the whole is consistent, and "Mad" Harry Starks is a character you, as well as those who cross his path, will not soon forget.
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