Sunday, 20 February 2011

Brighton Rock Review

After an acclaimed turn in the Ian Curtis biopic Control, Sam Riley leads an all-star British cast in a remake of the classic Brit-noir Brighton Rock as the iconic Pinkie, a violent young man struggling to make a name for himself in Brighton's criminal underworld.

When complications arise in a murder Pinkie carries out, he is forced to gain the sympathy of innocent bystander Rose, who holds circumstantial evidence of the crime.

Based upon Graham Greene's classic novel, Rowan Joffe's new adaptation shifts the drama from the 1930s to the context of the 60s mods and rockers conflict. While this accounts for an exciting central set piece, the decision seems somewhat superficial, not particularly adding much in terms of plot or themes.

The mods' and rockers' rivalry deserves better treatment, which would seem out of place within Brighton Rock's narrative.

However, Joffe's version begins promisingly – an ominous soundtrack, gloomy lighting and gorgeous cinematography set a menacing mood and the convoluted series of events that results in Pinkie and Rose's unlikely pairing is well orchestrated.

The problems arise in a flabby mid-section. Posters for the film boast of performances from Helen Mirren and John Hurt, yet Mirren's work as Ida, Rose's boss who is determined to get to the bottom of Pinkie's crime, feels disappointingly lazy and bland. Hurt has little to do except sit around and look concerned at the state of Brighton's crumbling society.

The biggest trouble with Brighton Rock is in the central relationship between Pinkie and Rose. The performances are excellent – Riley is brooding, with an undercurrent of fear and sadness, and Andrea Riseborough is absolutely brilliant as Rose, the troubled, beating heart of a film in desperate need of one.

However the script never gives the audience a reason to believe in the budding almost-romance between the pair. Pinkie is, frankly, a thoroughly unlikeable character, and it becomes difficult not to question quite why Rose remains so devoted to him.

The best antiheroes give you a reason to root for them even though you know you shouldn't really, but Joffe's screenplay never allows for this.

That said, Brighton Rock is worth a viewing. The film recovers slightly in its final act, with a dark and involving conclusion. It also looks beautiful – even though the 60s setting doesn't really work, the costumes and sets are fantastically realised, and the sweeping cinematography is striking. But there is always an annoying sense that Brighton Rock should be better than it actually is, and it's a feeling that's even harder to shake once you've left the cinema.

Entertainment Value: 2.5/5
Genre Value: 3/5
Style: 3.5/5
Overall Rating: 3/5

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