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Brighton Rock

United Kingdom 2010
Directed by
Rowan Joffe
111 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Brighton Rock (2010)

Synopsis: Pinkie (Sam Riley, star of the 2007 Ian Curtis biopic, Control), a young hoodlum in the seaside town of Brighton in the south of England, takes over his gang after its leader is bumped off by a rival gang. Keen to flex his muscles Pinkie goes too far and murders one of that gang’s members, Fred Hale (Sean Harris),. In trying to covers his tracks Pinkie befriends Rose (Andrea Riseborough), a waitress at a local tea-shop who is the only person who could connect him with crime. But Pinkie doesn’t know how to deal with Hale’s formidable boss, Ida (Helen Mirren) who is determined to see justice done.

Rowan Joffe’s adaptation of Graham Greene’s novel isn’t really a remake of the classic 1947 version, directed by John Boulting which starred Richard Attenborough but rather a revisioning of it. The location is non-negotiable but Joffe transposes the story to the mid-1960s when the fashion wars between The Mods and The Rockers were at their height. Whereas  Boulting’s film was a typical enough low budget post-war film, technically this version is far more sophisticated with  top drawer cinematography by John Mathieson and consistently impressive production design and art direction.  Even better, Joffe’s script skillfully resolves the narrative awkwardness of the original, keeping the broad strokes of the plot but changing a lot of the details so that the film flows much more smoothly. Best of all, it fixes the unconvincing relationship between Rose and Pinkie that marred the original both giving their relationship psychological credibility and embedding it more naturally into the main action.

Viewers who know the original (or the novel) may regret the loss of its noir-ish seediness, so well brought home by the Expressionist black and white cinematography and the very cheapness of the production, not to mention the transformation of Ida Arnold from Greene's original tarnished tart with a heart to Helen Mirren's much smoother operator not to mention the marginalisation of the Roman Catholicism that was prominent in the novel. Gone too of course are the contemporary locations showing us post-war Brighton. In this respect the film is closer in style to Lone Scherfig’s early '60s period piece, An Education (2009), Perhaps too Pinkie’s end is more effectively handled in the original. All up, however, there are pros and cons either way.

Although the scene of a mass influx of Mods on their scooters is a missed opportunity in the wardrobe department and the interpellation of an old romance between Ida and her aging beau, played by John Hurt was unnecessary Brighton Rock 2010 is an unusually good “remake”.




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