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Brighton Rock

2010 | 111 min | BBFC: 15 | 2.39:1

Brighton Rock


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Theatrical release date

 26 August, 2011
 04 February, 2011

Country of origin

 United Kingdom



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Brighton Rock Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, August 25, 2011

“Brighton Rock” is an incredibly dramatic motion picture, positively loony at times. There are a few moments so heated, it feels as though the film itself is pointing a loaded gun to its temple, threatening to shoot. The manic energy isn’t a smooth blend with writer/director Rowan Joffe’s sizable effort of screen style, but the volcanic mood feels undeniably effective at times, funneled into a combustible story of gang warfare, criminals, and the women they secretly detest.

Pinkie (Sam Riley, “Control”) is a small time crook looking to assume command of his gang when their leader is killed by a rival outfit. Unfortunately, a picture of an adversary was snapped on a public pier before his murder, an incriminating frame that includes Rose (Andrea Riseborough), an innocent accidently caught up in the crime. Fearing police involvement, Pinkie sets out to secure Rose’s silence, finding the one way to gain her trust is through her heart. Reluctantly romancing the mousy teen, Pinkie hopes to control the situation, gaining enough power to confront adversary Mr. Colleoni (Andy Serkis). Instead, his plan erodes when Ida (Helen Mirren), Rose’s employer, deduces the thug’s true interest, inflaming her own concerns about the pier homicide.

“Brighton Rock” is adapted from the 1938 novel by Graham Greene, previously made into a 1947 film starring Richard Attenborough. The update moves the action from the gangster era to the 1960s, where the resort town of Brighton plays host to growing tensions between the Mods and the Rockers, a charge of youth culture Joffe utilizes splendidly to position the unsettled tone of the picture.

The new “Brighton Rock” retains its noirish overtones, keeping track of shady men who prowl the night armed with tremendous attitudes and switchblades. Pinkie represents the new breed of crime lord, quick to condemn and slash, while his rivals seek to build an empire away from the ugly business of murder. Riley is perfectly cast as the tortured leader, submitting a variety of glares and scowls that speak louder than words, fitting snugly into Joffe’s vision of internalized unrest. Pinkie is a scary character, escalating his agitation when he reluctantly seduces Rose, a naive girl who’s quite taken with her beau’s forceful attitude, but also views the man as a ticket out of her stifling life of servitude.

The relationship between Rose and Pinkie drives the suspense of “Brighton Rock,” with viewers never quite sure if the crook is developing feelings for his unlikely girlfriend or simply waiting for the right time to kill her. The feature feels particularly secure here, less so when itemizing the gangster particulars, which cover conversational face-offs and assassination attempts. The violent use of blades is a refreshing change of pace, but the criminal activity feels routine. The unspoken strain between the leads is much more interestingly pronounced.

Disappointingly, Mirren is more of a spoiler than a significant supporting character, though blessed with enough effortless venom to compete with the armed assailants.

“Brighton Rock” rides the emotional and physical violence like a bucking bronco, with Joffe striking a few Hitchcockian notes on his way to setting the whole picture on fire. The passion is effective, but overwhelming at times, creating a film with an unpredictable sense of hysteria. The movie doesn’t always convince, but it’s rarely lazy.

Starring: Sam Riley, Andrea Riseborough, Helen Mirren, John Hurt, Phil Davis, Sean Harris
Director: Rowan Joffe

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