BLOG: The Best of Bob Hoskins

| May 1, 2014 | 0 Comments


Bob Hoskins looked like everybody else.  That was his appeal.  He didn’t seem like a movie star but a guy who seems to have wandered in and just happened to be caught by the camera’s eye.  He had a short stature and pudgy build that was perfect for roles both scary and cuddly.  He was, more often, seen as the tough guy but there was always an undercurrent of softness about him.  Like Edward G. Robinson, his physical appearance could portray a mean tough guy, but underneath it all was tenderness that he worked to hide.  He could alternate back and forth so, in that way, he never stopped surprising you.

Here are some of his best film roles:


The Long Good Friday (1981)
Most movie fans came to know Hoskins here, as the ferocious mob boss in John Mackenzie’s The Long Good Friday as Harold Shand, a terrifying little man who’s operation runs the London docks in and is sanctioned by the local crime organization.  He’s about to become a very rich man via money from the American mafia.  Unfortunately someone starts blowing up his pubs, leading to a classic scene in which he gathers the usual suspects in a meat locker, hung up by their feet.  What’s special about Harold Shand is that, while he’s an evil and violent man, we come to illicit a measure of affection for him.  He’s a business man, and a very good one, but he’s also a mess of contradictions and immorality.  Yet, there is a tiny speck in him that suggests that he believes in fair play.  You don’t want to like him, but you can’t help it.


Mona Lisa (1986)
Quite possibly Hoskins best performance.  It brought him his only Oscar nomination, and won him a Golden Globe and a prize at Cannes.  What’s special is that it shows the best of what Hoskins could do with the tough guy role.  He plays George, an ex-con who works for members of the London mob who is charged with driving a call girl (Cathy Tyson) to her appointments.  His exterior is all tough guy, the two hate each other passionately, but eventually they begin to realize that they enjoy each other’s company even when they’re arguing.  George is all sweat, anger and bitterness, and has no reason to like driving this high-priced floozy around, but underneath his exterior is the mind of a kid who never grew up and never learned to get himself under control.


The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (1988)
Many will not have heard of this one, and if you have, you see as Maggie Smith’s movie.  She plays the title role of Judith Hearne a lonely spinster whose most loyal lover has always been the bottle.  A small ray of hope falls into her gray little life in the form of James (Hoskins) the brother of her landlady who, in a quiet and lovely moment, asks her to church and then a picture show.  It turns out, unfortunately, that he is not all he seems.  He’s interested in money that he thinks she has.  What’s special about Hoskins here is that he takes his usual criminal role and pulls it down to a man who’s morality is merely a cad.  He wants something from her and we find that his happy and jovial mask is as heartbreaking to us as it is to Judith.


Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)
Hoskins was not the first choice for the role of Eddie Valiant, nor the second, nor the third.  The producers originally wanted the role filled by an actor known for comedy (Eddie Murphy, Wallace Shawn and Chevy Chase were considered).  In truth, that would have been fatal to the material.  What Hoskins brings the role of the world-weary private eye stuck in a world of ‘toons is a base reality.  He plays the role straight and lets the wackiness of the characters happen to him.  This may also be one of the most difficult roles he ever played, having to spend most of his time acting with characters who weren’t there.  It’s a tough job, but he does it beautifully.


The Raggedy Rawney (1990)

It’s hard to call it a great film, but if anyone is going to examine Hoskins’ work The Raggedy Rawney might be essential because this was his passion project, based on a story he heard from his grandmother as a child.  He wrote, directed and stars in this odd tale of an army deserter (Dexter Fletcher) who hides himself among a band of traveling gypsies who (based on his disguise) think he’s a woman with magical powers.  Hoskins plays Darky, the leader of the band who gives the kid a place to hide so long as he keeping making money predicting horse races.  The movie is, at times, shapeless but it’s one of those oddball films that never bores you.  What Hoskins proves here is that he can tell a compelling story.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
Filed in: Disney Essays