Thursday, 10 February 2011

BRIGHTON ROCK review

Out now in cinemas in this re-adaptation of Graham Greene's novel.
Watch the trailer and read my review, next...




Small time hoodlum Pinkie Brown (Sam Riley) has to cover his tracks after commiting murder underneath Brighton Pier. He befriends a local waitress named Rose (Andrea Riseborough) who is unknowingly in the possession of the one piece of evidence that links Pinkie to the crime. After embarking on a destructive romance with Pinkie, Rose's boss Ida (Helen Mirren) sees the danger Rose is in and tries to save her from the deadly mistake she's made.


This new adaptation of Graham Greene's novel by screenwriter turned director Rowan Joffe, unfortunately has a giant albatross circling the pier in the shape of the much revered 1947 adaptation starring Richard Attenborough. It'd be easy to dismiss this version outright, purely on the basis that it doesn't need to exist, but there's still plenty to admire in this new adaptation, despite its irrelevance.


Firstly, Sam Riley puts in a great performance as Pinkie Brown, a young man in way over his head and reacting in the most destructive way possible. I've been following Riley's work since his breakthrough role in Anton Corbijn's Control, but he's virtually unrecognisable here. His personification of Pinkie is certainly not as a charming man, but one who still carries some animal magnetism that Rose can't resist. He may be a weasely thug at heart, but with his babyface looks he's a delight to watch, his suits sharper than the concealed blade he carries.


Andrea Riseborough's Rose may be the central figure in the film, but it's a struggle to empathise with her character's poor choices. Pinkie may be the owner of a boyish face, but underneath he's clearly an unhinged sociopath, and one who is unlikely to change, making Rose's decision to remain involved with him a hard point to swallow. She may simply be a woman of old fashioned values, but occasionally comes across as insufferably wet. It's only a matter of time before someone takes advantage of her.


The world these characters live in is changing, evidenced by the social upheaval that plays as a backdrop to Pinkie and Rose's story. Unlike the original novel or the first film adaptation, the action takes place in 1964 with Mods and Rockers regularly coming to blows on the Brighton seafront. Although at first this may have seemed like a crass attempt of adding a Quadrophenia vibe to the film, it's a successful and smartly realised move by the filmmakers, adding a sense of changing times to the story and a rich layer of style to the film.


As the concerned cafe owner, Helen Mirren's Ida isn't really given a lot to do. Ida may be the surrogate mother Rose needs in her life who doesn't want her to make similar mistakes to the one she's made, but there's just not enough meat to her role to make her a worthwhile addition. This also goes for the under used John Hurt and Andy Serkis too.


The early scenes where Pinkie scrambles around to protect himself after committing murder are the highlight (including the battle of the Ian Curtis's, where 24 Hour Party People's Sean Harris faces off against Control's Sam Riley), leading to the coup of his gang and brief ascension to Big Fish on a small pier. The story suffers when it moves to Pinkie's wooing of Rose in a decidedly bitter romance. Pinkie lacks any undercurrent of true feelings for Rose, as is proven when he records an unheard LP that allows him to unleash the true bile he feels towards her. There's little pathos to Pinkie, with only the photograph he keeps of his deceased father offering any proof that he's not a complete monster.


Andrea Riseborough plays Rose as a sweet innocent, but her oblivious nature to Pinkie's true character becomes an annoyance over the course of the film. You're willing her to stand up and fight, but the story paints her as no more than Eastenders Little Mo with a better dress sense. Riseborough clearly shows herself to be a talented actress, but the role is ultimately too unsympathetic.


This new version of Brighton Rock is a stylish but ankle-deep wade into a classic film noir story, succeeding in creating a believable 1964 facade that unfortunately collapses under its story and the weight of high expectations. What starts off with the potential to be excellent, ends up disappointingly average.


Verdict

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