It is 1964 England and in Brighton, young waitress Rose (Andrea Riseborough) works in a coffee shop owned by Ida (Helen Mirren), some of whose acquaintances mix in questionable circles. When Rose inadvertently stumbles on evidence that links teenage gangster Pinkie Brown (Sam Riley) and his gang to a revenge killing, Pinkie tries to tie up loose ends. In order to find out what she knows, he spends time with Rose, who is immediately smitten. He is unlike anyone she has ever met and she follows him blindly. Can Pinkie trust Rose or should he kill her before she talks to the police?
Review by Louise Keller:
According to teenage gangster Pinkie Brown (Sam Riley), if you bite a stick of Brighton Rock confectionery all the way down, it still says 'Brighton', but in this re-imagining of Graham Greene's novel (which is set 30 years earlier), there's little substance beneath the gloss. Admittedly, the film looks wonderful with moody lighting, haunting cinematography and affecting music score, but the characters are jumbled and confusing in Rowan Joffe's directing debut.
In the original 1947 film noir adaptation, Richard Attenborough played the role of the flick-knife wielding thug; here it is Riley who effectively brings menace to the screen. The action has been updated to 1964 and the film begins with an ominous but beautiful shot of the black waves pummeling Brighton Beach at night, quickly followed by a murder. The mood and sense of dread is well executed but the heavy accents are often difficult to understand; it takes quite a while to work out how all the characters fit together.
Everything hangs on a plain, bespectacled teenage girl called Rose (a stunning performance by Andrea Riseborough) who falls hopelessly in love with the ambitious Pinkie and declares she will do anything for him. There's a spectacular shot when Pinkie takes Rose to the White Cliffs of Dover - it is unclear whether he is going to push her over the edge or kiss her. (It is the latter.) Later, they kiss again in the rain when he spins the memorable line: "You're good and I'm bad; we're made for each other." A marriage of convenience follows, with Pinkie wise to the fact that as his wife, Rose cannot testify against him.
Helen Mirren is great value as Ida, who runs Snows Coffee Shop, where naïve and innocent Rose works as a waitress and Andy Serkis chomping at a huge cigar is suitably memorable as master thug Colleoni. The violence in the shadows and on the pebbles of Brighton Beach play second fiddle to the central relationship between Pinky and Rose, which holds our attention as the narrative comes to its dramatic climax. The religious nuances add piquancy and all the elements are in place for a satisfying resolution but the ending disappoints.
Published first in the Sun-Herald
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BRIGHTON ROCK (MA15+)
CAST: Sam Riley, Andrea Riseborough, Helen Mirren, John Hurt, Andy Serkis, Steven Robertson, Sean Harris, Nonso Anozie
PRODUCER: Paul Webster
DIRECTOR: Rowan Joffe
SCRIPT: Rowan Joffe (novel by Graham Greene)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: John Mathieson
EDITOR: Joe Walker
MUSIC: Martin Phipps
PRODUCTION DESIGN: James Merifield
RUNNING TIME: 111 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 14, 2011