Director: Rowan Joffe
Screenplay: Rowan Joffe, based on the novel Brighton Rock by Graham Greene
Starring: Sam Riley, Andrea Riseborough, Helen Mirren, John Hurt, Andy Serkis
Running Time: 111 minutes
Genre: Crime, drama, gangsters
This film is an adaptation of a novel by Graham Greene, which was previously made into a critically acclaimed film in 1947, directed by John Boulting and starring Richard Attenborough. In this film the setting is updated from the 1930s to the 1960s.
Brighton, England, 1964. Violent gangs of warring Mods and Rockers are tearing up the coastal town of Britain, and young gangster Pinkie Brown (Riley) murders rival Fred Hale (Sean Harris) against the express wishes of his gang. Brown hastily seduces and marries young waitress Rose (Riseborough), who is the only person who can tie him to the murder. However Rose's boss, Ida (Mirren), was a close friend of Hale's and suspects that Rose can tie Pinkie to the crime and is determined to make her testify. With the threat of the police, and powerful and wealthy local crime boss Colleoni (Serkis), as well as his own gang increasingly turning against him, the already psychotic Pinkie becomes increasingly unhinged and it is only a matter of time before he decides to silence Rose permanently.
This is a powerful and intriguing gangster movie, which plays more like a doom-laden tragedy. The main focus of the film is the corruption of the innocent waitress Rose by the sadistic gangster Pinkie. Despite a memorable riot scene between the Mods and the Rockers, it is difficult to see what difference it made, updating the story to the 1960s. Also the film suffers at times from being too heavily symbolic, with Catholic symbolism (well, it is an adaptation of a Graham Greene novel) and at times almost apocalyptic portents of doom being layered on with a trowel.
However, despite the flaws, the film looks good and is stylishly made. It memorably depicts a bleak and savage world where there is little light or hope. In the process, it manages to make the seaside town of Brighton make Dante's Inferno look like an ideal holiday destination. Sam Riley, who previously made an impression as Joy Divison frontman Ian Curtis in musical misery-fest Control (2007), gives a great perfomance as the monsterous Pinkie Brown, and Andrea Riseborough gives a star-making perfomance as the tortured Rose.
This is a slow-burning but endlessly fascinating film, which provides enough thrills and suspense to keep fans of gangster movies happy, but adds a bracing layer of darkness and grit to the genre.