Brighton Rock

Brighton Rock


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

At the risk of committing review sacrilege, I'd say that whether you have seen the 1947 adaptation of Graham Greene's novel about the lengths two-bit criminal Pinkie goes to in order to keep his head out of the noose is not really an issue here - many people will be coming to this version without having seen the original or, at the very least, from a sufficient distance that it will not be fresh in their minds. This is not, after all, a remake like Let Me In, coming hot on the heels of its predecessor.

No, the big question is, how does Rowan Joffe's version measure up to the book and does it stand on its own two feet? Certainly, Rowan Joffe - who wrote The American screenplay and makes his feature film directing debut here - has attempted to put some distance between his adaptation and John Boulting's by moving the action forward in time to 1964. It's a move that gains something in terms of style but loses something in the substance department as, although there is a sense of a brooding sexual revolution that helps Rose in terms of character development, Pinkie's gangster cohorts never quite gel with the mods and rockers of the era.

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Sam Riley's Pinkie is cold, clinical and calculating, viewing a liaison with mousy cafe waitress Rose (Andrea Riseborough) as an unfortunate necessity in order to get his hands on a photo that implicates him in murder. Riley's casting is the least successful aspect of the movie. He is considerably older than Greene's teenage Pinkie and the screenplay offers nothing of the Catholic guilt his character experiences in the book. This, coupled with Riley's decidedly deadpan delivery, means that Pinkie lacks the charisma that is supposed to be magnetic to Rose or the complexity of character that would make him magnetic to the viewer.

Rose fares much better, largely thanks to Riseborough's breakout performance, which shows her cleave to Pinkie as an escape route from her own troubled background, even though she becomes gradually aware of the queasy moral implications of her choice.

Helen Mirren is brassy and classy as Rose's cafe boss, who tries to give the girl an alternative escape route and there is solid support from John Hurt and Andy Serkis. Joffe's Brighton, meanwhile, is engagingly jaded, a place caught in a time period that is quickly being left behind and some of his directorial decisions - particularly a scene in which the complete opposition of Rose's and Pinkie's feelings for one another are shown as Pinkie makes a 'special' recording for her in a seaside booth - show a keen eye for contrast and style. Succumbing to rather too much melodrama in the final third, which undercuts the chilliness of what has gone before, this is nonetheless an interesting debut that promises better to come.

Reviewed on: 06 Feb 2011
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A gangster woos a cafe waitress to save himself from the noose.
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Director: Rowan Joffe

Writer: Graham Greene, Rowan Joffe

Starring: Sam Riley, Andrea Riseborough, Helen Mirren, John Hurt, Andy Serkis

Year: 2011

Runtime: 111 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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