reviewer: Goncalo Sousa
Rated: 15(UK)
Release Date: 4th February 2011
Director: Rowan Joffe
Cast: Helen Mirren, John Hurt,Andy Serkis, Sam Riley, Andrea Riseborough

A remake of the 1947 British noir classic Brighton Rock was bound to upset hoardes of film purists everywhere. Revisiting the legacy of the original film starring Richard Attenborough and based on the novel by Graham Greene was always going to be tricky. First-time director and accomplished screenwriter Rowan Joffe (28 Weeks Later, The American) took up the challenge, and made some bold choices. The biggest was to transpose the action from the 1930s to 1964, which made some critics coil in horror and fear the worst. Well, I have seen the new version of Brighton Rock, and I am happy to report that, while not a masterpiece, it is a compelling re-imagining of Greene’s story of love and hate, morality and sin.

Sam Riley plays Pinkie Brown, an ruthless and sadistic up-and-coming gangster in Brighton’s underworld, who ascends to the leadership of his gang when his predecessor his murdered. When the police suspects him of stoning a rival gangster to death under the Brighton Pier, he finds himself forced into a relationship with a girl whose testimony could convict him. This girl is Rose, played by Andrea Riseborough, a naive and vulnerable tea girl who falls desperately in love with Pinkie, unaware of how much he actually despises her. The relationship between these two characters is looked at with suspicion by Rose’s boss Ida, played by Helen Mirren, who believes Pinkie to be a dangerous criminal.

The performances are great throughout. Rather than attempting to recreate Richard Attenborough’s masterful portrayal of Pinkie, Sam Riley confers to his iteration an more obvious vulnerability hidden by a violent exterior. Pinkie is shown to be rather inept and insecure at the start of the story, but slowly comes to his own as a cruel and calculating villain. Helen Mirren offers a fresh interpretation of the character of Ida as a strong, determined, and fearless woman, intent on seeing that Pinkie faces justice. But the film’s most memorable performance comes from Andrea Riseborough as the frail and timid Rose, whose love for Pinkie puts her at odds with her strong catholic faith, leading her to wilfully risk eternal damnation for the man that she believes loves her back.

Setting the film during the 1960s riots between the young teenage mods and the older rockers reflects of the narrative’s depiction of a determined and formidable young man overthrowing an older generation of gangsters. It also offers great potential to the film’s cinematography, which strikes a balance between a neo-noir style and a vivid portrayal of colourful 1960s Brighton.
I shall avoid committing cinematic blasphemy by claiming the new version to better the original in any way – it doesn’t. However, this modernised reinterpretation of Graham Greene’s story does bring a fresh new perspective to the story, refining some of the characters’ motivations and actions. It is a fitting homage to the 1947 original, an enjoyable and stylish thriller definitely worth seeing.

Movie Rating: 4/5


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