1980, 114 Min. / Directed by John Mackenzie / Reg. 2 PAL DVD Anchor Bay UK / 16:9 / Dolby Digital 5.1 / 6-10-2002 / £19.99
The tough and influential British Gangster Harry Shans (Bob Hoskins) is about to mastermind the business deal of his life with a U.S. mob representative (Eddie Constantine) but on the Good Friday that the deal is supposed to come together his entire organization is thrown into disarray when his main lieutenant Colin is murdered and a Car Bomb kills one of his henchman. By afternoon he finds himself in a full-blown war with unknown IRA factions which jeorpardize his big deals, his entire “corporation” and his very life. Barrie Keeffe’s sharp screenplay and John Mackenzie’s expert direction convey both the slick, high-class facets of Sham’s world as well as it’s more violent and seedier foundations. This moody and very realistic style combined with a superb performance from Helen Mirren’s as Sham’s wife and a determined Hoskins in the role that made him a star (his final speech to the mob about British nationalism and his ending close-up are pricless) makes this one of the best british gangster films ever. Watch out for the surprise cameo by Pierce Brosnan as a mysterious assassin.
Anchor Bay UK’s new widescreen transfer contains a slight amount of grain in some of the darker scenes but the picture quality still remains extraordinarily strong for a film of it’s vintage. The DVD’s stereo soundtrack remains relatively clean and dynamic while the new Dolby Digital 5.1 track features some echoey re-channeled effects to fill out the rear channels but it’s still fun to listen to Francis Monkman excellent soundtrack in such an enveloping surround format. Along with interviews, theatrical trailers and cast/crew bios, the disc contains an informative commentary from Mackenzie where he speaks of the film’s political meaning in Britain and it’s problems getting distrubition because of these theme. Anchor Bay’s feature-filled release definitely trumps Criterion’s movie-only U.S. Laserdisc and DVD issues.