The Long Firm (2004– )
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An authentic image of a gangster and a beautifully conveyed story. Brilliant acting; especially Mark Strong's emotional and moving character. A delicate balance of drama, thrill and violence. It's the plot that kept me watching till 3 O'clock in the morning. The four characters telling their own story in each episode is a marvelous film-noir touch. A masterpiece by novel writer, Jake Arnott, brought thrice as powerful by the conversion to visual which was done perfectly. Not a single boring moment, and not for one second does it lose it's authentic aura. A must-see series.
Mark Strong's portrayal of Harry Starks reminded me Ronnie Kray, Reggie Kray, Charlie Richardson all rolled into one. He was excellent as the 'Torture Boss'. He was menacing and unpredictable but also you sort of saw him as a anti-hero if you like.
The program has taken large chunks of dialog from the book and had extra scenes and stuff written around it. All though I originally thought the show was excellent but after reading the book the book is out of this world a solid 10/10. I would recommend this book to everyone.
I am hoping the following two books in the sequence 'He Kills Coppers' and 'True Crime' get made into series.
Mark Strong plays Harry Starks a homosexual gangster in 1960s London .
Episode 1 ) Harry and his new boyfriend travel to Nigeria to pull off a scam
Episode 2 ) Harry tries to set up a club while his new boyfriend Tommy has a sexual relationship with starlet Ruby Ryder
Episode 3 ) A rent boy is found murdered and mutilated so Harry tries to track down his killers
Episode 4 ) Newly released from prison Harry tries to start a new life in Spain with a limp wristed criminologist
That's the premise of each episode but it's impossible to describe how well they play out on screen . For much of the episode Harry is off centre and it's the supporting characters that carry the audience through the story . It also has a wonderful sense of dark humour like the bit where an obviously stoned Judy Garland tries to sing only to have the club goers pelt and boo her , or the scene where Harry is described as a deviant by a criminologist : " Deviant ? Deviant ! - Calling me a f***in' nonce ! "
This show has you laughing out loud one minute and curling your toes the next with some graphic violence because there's nothing Harry enjoys more than tying someone up in a chair and inflicting violence on them usually with a white hot object
There's little negative I can say about THE LONG FIRM . I could be pedantic and point out small errors like the episode set in 1967 has a clip from a DOCTOR WHO story from 1968 but that would be cruel . The ending is slightly disappointing but nothing is perfect and expect this show to pick up a major amount of awards at next years BAFTA's
And if the BBC can produce drama of this quality then why do we have to put up with a unfufilling TV diet of garbage ? The BBC can still make classic drama when it wants to . I guess they just don't want to
The London and Essex settings are excellent, capturing perfectly the glamour and seediness of '60s clubland. When Harry goes further afield, to Nigeria and then Spain, it is a lot less convincing. But overall a great series, well worth looking out for.
I am loathe to criticise ambitious drama like this in the light of the soapy dreck that constitutes the vast majority of British televisual output. However, 'The Long Firm' promised more than it delivered. And its faults lay firmly with the writing.
Each episode used a different narrator to relay details of their associations with the main character, London gangster Harry Starks. The technique proved clumsy, with the voice-overs unsubtle and unenlightening. Why employ such a method if ultimately the insights are all the same? More friction needed to exist between what we saw and what we heard for it to work. Like too much modern drama, the approach didn't transcend its stylistic facility.
In the same vein, character development and the attendant psychological underpinnings (e.g. gangster as thwarted celebrity/entertainer) were clichéd and overly familiar. The final episode, in particular, was embarrassingly heavy-handed in its satire of the counter-culture and academia. In general there was too much pastiche and caricature to allow real interest. Any emotional impact generated by these people was purely down to the skill of the actors and the director. Also, I haven't read the source novel by Jake Arnott, but I am presuming that it made a more profitable and resonant use of the metaphorical title. Here, it was explained briefly in episode one and then thrown away.
Ultimately, each episode proved highly watchable but somehow unsatisfying, leaving this viewer to assume that we were building to some revelation/twist/new insight that never came, the screenwriter happy to fashion the piece into little more than a summation of period iconography/psychology.
There was much to enjoy, though. The piece was extremely well-cast, mixing a few expected-but-impressive veterans with a lot of talented but lesser-known faces. Mark Strong proved to be a commanding linchpin as Starks, bringing charisma and nuance to the role. Also notable were Lena Headey's Ruby Ryder, the excellent George Costigan, and Shaun Dingwall as Harry's biographer. The period detail and mise en scene were nicely understated and entirely convincing, and there were nice, ballsy touches like the interpolation of footage from the 'Parkinson' show. Additionally there were a few welcome surprises on the contemporaneous soundtrack, such as Janice Nicholls' novelty hit 'I'll give it five'. Or 'Oi'll give eet foive!'.
Perhaps I expected a little too much from this piece. I walked away reasonably entertained but with an air of opportunities unfulfilled.
I have not read the book, but I believe more could have been extracted from it, and a longer (and better) mini series could have emerged as a result. In any case, not a bad 4-episode novel adaptation, initially very original and innovative, but just don't expect too much overall.
All the cast are terrific in their roles, especially Mark Strong as Harry starks. He can be friendly yet menacing, manipulative but careless, destructive but fragile all at the same time. There's also a scene with Harry and his father that's complete scene stealer. Each episode is unmissable.
It has all been done before but TLF does it better. The torture scenes(The Krays and Charlie), Phil Daniels popping pills and remorsing on throwing a woman out of the car(Jack the Hat in The Krays) the nightclub scenes (Scandal) it contains too many characters like Barbara Windsor, Ronnie Knight,Johnny Ray, Joe Meek, Brian Epstien like you were reading a 60s gossip column. So who is Harry Starks based on, who knows but his Mum and aunty May have been seen before just like all the other characters.
The Long Firm screenplay could have been written by anybody who has watched The Biography Channel and seen Scorsese's "Goodfellas" and the movies mentioned previously. It is very well produced and directed and all the actors are great especially Mark Strong who excels and is destined for Hollywood.
The Long Firm is far better than any of the Brit movies mentioned previously but it could have been a lot better if hadn't been so unoriginal and predictable.