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For Hicksflicks.com, May 2, 2014

The headline here is part of a memorable line spoken by Bob Hoskins in his first leading role and his first major film success, as a violent British mobster in "The Long Good Friday." The line is spoken as this murderous kingpin picks up a syringe used for drug abuse and mutters, "Is there no decency in this filthy world?"

Although he had appeared in the 1970s films "Royal Flash" and "Zulu Dawn," my introduction to Hoskins was in that harsh R-rated gangster flick.

I reviewed "The Long Good Friday" for the Deseret News and KSL in December 1982 and described Hoskins' character as "a cold-blooded little man resembling a bowling ball with feet," and praised the actor for creating "the perfect blend of bewilderment, outrage and anger" in this mob boss searching for a traitor in his midst.

Hoskins in 'Long Good Friday' (right); 'Mona Lisa,' with Cathy Tyson

Four years later, I praised him in another deservedly R-rated gangster picture, "Mona Lisa" (1986), which earned Hoskins all kinds of accolades and cemented his reputation as a first-rate film star. In my review I called his performance a "tour de force" adding that he brought an unusual depth to what could have been a mere stereotype: "He is compassionate and caring, despite his active temper and his background, and the changes he goes through here will alternately cheer you and break your heart."

Upon learning of Hoskins' death earlier this week at age 71, I reflected on those films, as well as his later American box-office successes, in particular "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" (1988, PG), in which he was perfectly cast as a down-and-out gumshoe mixed up with cartoon characters in the animated Hollywood urban area known as Toon Town.


            Hoskins and the title star in 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit'

It's not easy playing against a green screen and exchanging dialogue with characters that will be added in later, and Hoskins pulled it off with aplomb.

There's no question that Hoskins was a character actor, but he was fortunate enough to have been born into an era when unconventional-looking actors with talent could find themselves in leading roles (think Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Duvall). Hoskins went back and forth between sizable and smaller parts in a wide range of movie genres and never seemed uncomfortable.

Among his more familiar film roles are the first mate Smee to Dustin Hoffman's Capt. Hook in Steven Spielberg's "Hook" (1991, PG) (a role he reprised in the 2010 TV miniseries "Neverland"), one of the "Super Mario Bros." (1993, PG), J. Edgar Hoover in Oliver Stone's "Nixon" (1995, R), etc.

Bob Hoskins was a man of many talents and he'll be sorely missed.