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In honor of the marvelous Helen Mirren, who walked away from the Golden Globes with a pair of richly deserved awards for The Queen and the television miniseries Elizabeth I, this week's film is John Mackenzie's U.K. gangster picture The Long Good Friday (1980).

I vividly remember seeing The Long Good Friday when it opened briefly and with little fanfare in New York in 1982: I went into the theater with no expectations and came out feeling as though I'd been kicked between the eyes - which I mean in the best possible way. And I came out in awe of Helen Mirren, whom I later realized I'd already seen in the notoriously hard-core historical spectacle Caligula (1979), which probably represents the last time Bob Guccione and Gore Vidal's names appeared in the same sentence. But I digress: Caligula is a story for another day.

Cockney villain Harold Shand ( Bob Hoskins) dreams big, and his dreams are on the verge of coming true: Guided by his longtime girlfriend, educated, upper-class Victoria (Helen Mirren), Harold has put together an ambitious riverbank development project that will transform him from shady operator to world-class real-estate entrepreneur, and all he needs is a major infusion of cash from New Jersey-based Mafia don Charlie ( Eddie Constantine). But the day Charlie and his minions arrive for a lavish Easter-weekend party/Thames River tour aboard Harold's yacht, all hell breaks loose. Someone begins killing off Harold's associates and sabotaging his properties, every act of violence further convincing the American gangsters that Harold doesn't have his business under control and thus imperiling the deal. Harold's increasingly desperate efforts to find out who's trying to ruin him and why drive this tough, convoluted crime thriller, but Hopkins and Mirren's performances are mesmerizing, as is the score by classically trained art-rock composer and Curved Air founder Francis Monkman.

The Long Good Friday unfolds at the intersection of profit-driven crime and sociopolitically motivated violence, and it's one tough, clear-eyed little movie that links pioneering U.K. gangster movies like Brighton Rock (1947) to more recent films examples like Sexy Beast (2000) and Gangster No. 1. I can't recommend it highly enough.... Oh, and Bond fans, take note of a very young Pierce Brosnan as a hit man in a teeny-weeny swimsuit.

Things to consider:

American gangster movies like The Public Enemy (1931) and Scarface (1932) established a set of conventions that have been mimicked, subverted, adapted, deconstructed, remade, revised and rediscovered over the course of some eight decades and in a wide range of cultural milieus. What are some of the genre's fundamental conventions?

Are the workings of an established criminal subculture the mirror of larger cultural structures - Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather (1972) and Godfather II (1974), for example, are widely discussed as critiques of American capitalism - or are they a degenerate alternative to them?

Are U.K. gangster films especially shocking because of the prevailing notion that Great Britain is an inherently civilized country?

Remember: Send your movie questions to FlickChick.

Previous DVD Tuesday blogs:

What Alice Found

The Devil's Backbone

The Descent

The Devil Wears Prada

Pandora's Box

The Thief and the Cobbler


Panic in the Streets/Jack Palance interview

The Pusher Trilogy



Sunset Blvd.

In Cold Blood


Also: This week's new DVD releases