The Long Good Friday is the perfect anti-mystery story.
The plot revolves around Harold Shand (played by Bob Hoskins at his brutish best), a London gagster attempting to “go legitimate” by entering into a lucrative business partnership with a pair of American… “investors.” Unfortunately, just as he’s preparing to finalize the deal, the tenuous peace that he’s maintained for the past ten years begins to unravel: his favorite pub is bombed, his top enforcer is gutted like a fish, and his elderly mother is given a dreadful fright when her car explodes right outside of her church. A deliciously suspenseful race against the clock ensues: can our unlikely “hero” root out the saboteurs before the chaos that they’ve wrought undermines his “international alliance” in its infancy?
It sounds like the setup for a classic whodunit—except that the audience is never offered any concrete clues. We’re dropped into the action in medias res with precious little narrative context, leaving us as hopelessly lost, confused, and out of our depth as the protagonist. The central puzzle is not, in fact, intended to be solved at all; indeed, it essentially assembles itself while the characters waste time pointlessly interrogating informants that genuinely don’t know anything useful.
Which ultimately works to the film’s benefit; The Long Good Friday is less concerned with “brilliant deductions” or “logical reasoning” than it is with crafting an oppressively tense atmosphere, metaphorically tightening the noose as Harold’s organization crumbles around him—culminating in the cruelest cut to black in cinematic history.