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Brighton Rock

By Matthew Arnoldi - Posted on 14 February 2011

Rowan Joffe
Rowan Joffe
Sam Riley Andrea Riseborough Helen Mirren John Hurt Screenwriter Rowan Joffe brings nearer to the present day, Graham Greene's classic novel of streetwise viciousness, rivalry, betrayal and classic innocence, energising the story with the backdrop of 60's mods and rockers from the original 1947 setting adopted in the first film which starred Dickie Attenborough in the lead role. Here Sam Riley (Control, On the Road) does a reasonable of providing the Dickie Attenborough role of rising gang leader Pinkie, with sufficient menace for us to wonder where the thriller will lead. Gang wars in 60's Brighton is the focus of attention as Pinkie's gang suffers a major loss when a rival gang delivers a nasty blow to their leader. For Pinkie and his hoodlums, retribution must be swift and delivered with a knife to the perpetrator but things go awry with the killing and in the course of the events, there is a witness to the crime, a young timid waitress called Rose who if she were to go to the Police, could put them all up for murder. Pinkie tracks down Rose and starts a relationship with her figuring if she's devoted to him, she won't blab to the Police. Meanwhile, he's got a battle on his hands, keeping together the gang and taking on his bigger gang rivals. Whilst its been widely publicised that Eastbourne masqueraded as Brighton in the film and on the poster (the Eastbourne pier in particular was more in keeping with the period setting according to producers in comparison with the all-too-modernised Brighton), there's no disguising the decent performances on view here from a fine cast. Mirren and Hurt are decent supporting performers, Mirren playing Rose's boss, determined not to let her innocent waitress Rose fall into the wrong crowd if she can help it. They're well backed up by the likes of Phil Davis who plays an ageing member of Pinkie's gang and of course starred in Quadrophenia and Andy Serkis (Sex and drugs and rock n' roll) who plays intimidating rival gang leader Colleoni with a steely charm that leaves you thinking no man should attempt to cross him. Sam Riley does a good job of depicting Pinkie with a brooding, calculating ambitious menace, who secretly you think, does develop a soft spot for Rose even if he loves himself more. The real star here though is Andrea Riseborough who provides a convincing portrayal of a young girl unloved by her miserable single parent father, who finds love instead in the form of a dangerous bit of rough and having been shown some attention, allbeit scant, by someone for the first time in her life, is prepared to give back both love and unerring loyalty. Also of real note here is the brilliant cinematography, and the pacy way the film shifts to the mods and rockers on the beach, and then veers away back into the gangland conniving that is at the heart of the story. As a lover of Greene's novels, I personally didn't mind the story shifting to the 60's, if anything I felt it worked well knowing that there would have been turfland wars between gangs at that time. The film has received some lukewarm reviews so far but its not easy to see why. This is a well made film that does retain a level of suspense to the final reel and in its central pairing of Riley as a man who will stop at nothing to get what he wants and Riseborough as the lovely Rose entwined with this cold blooded killer, the film does veer decisively towards an excellent denouement. Worth seeing if you can find it on general release.
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U.K. Release Date: 
14 February 2011
UK Certificate: