the original novel by graham green was backsetted in 1930s, a decade when the perception of right and wrong, the contrast of good and evil was in the binary oppositions. it's about adolescent deliquency as well as the skeptism of religion. it's a story about a teenage gangster who ruthlessly slaughters several men in a row, desperate to create himself an alibi by seducing a bystanding young-girl into his romantic conquest. later he even marries her just to keep her mouth shut. but ill-fatedly the female confidant of one of his victims never nullifies her search for the real killer and vows to snatch enough evidences to turn him in to the police. forced by circumstance, the boy coaxes the girl, his wife by now, into committing suicide together with him. (but he plans to let her do it first then he would be freed and take off for good by eliminating the only survived witness of his crimes)..but his crooked scheme fails due to some un-expected intrusion. eventually the evil teen dies, and the gullible good girl survives with a heart-aching memory for her "one true love."
SPOILER: (THIS PASSAGE IS FOR THOSE WHO READ THE ORIGINAL NOVEL AND SAW THE 1947 MOVIE)
the controversy between the novel and the two screen adaptations would be the ending. in the original novel, the girl requests the boy to record his voice in phonograph right after the wedding day, and the boy cannot get out of her persistent request, so he utters something like: "i know you wish to hear that i love but i don't. and i hate you. i don't like the way you look, the way you sound..i wish you get out of my life, away for good" (stuff like that)..the novel's ending is that she plays phonograph just to listen to his voice in order to mourn him, then she's about to discover the cruel truth of life...but in both of the movie adaptations, the record gets scratched so the phonograph repeatedly plays "i love you" to leave the girl in rapturous solace. (kinda funny, isn't it?)
the boy's name is pinkie brown. in this version, sceneries shift to the 1960s britain while youth riots were in great heat, which is handy to create more chaotic street scenes of violence to accompany the murders between gangsters. also, this version seems to tenderize and sanitize every character, and somehow dissolve the seething misogynism in green's novel (the young girl is a lovelorn sap; the old woman who performs the justice is a babbling vulgar old lace with her half-wit sentiments). pinkie brown is also beautified by sam riley, whose interpretation turns this character into a countercultural anti-hero who is merely driven by the circumstances to protect his own self-interests. you could sense the reluctance in him in his performing of crimes. some of the love scenes would even make you wonder whether he truly doesn't care for her as much as he thinks he doesn't. also pinkie brown in the novel is a boy in his early teens, but here pinkie seems more like a grown fresh-faced young man in his early 20s. in one scene, riley even rides in a vespa scooter leading the motorcycle gang in a dashing poise.
the gullible young girl here is also romanticized into some sort of romantic heroine who fearlessly dives into love by the actress. in the 1947 version, the scratched phonographic record does create a sardonic sense of black humour but in the new version, it's simply tragic to see her weeping solemnly for her "one lost love" under a cross. (somehow she shall never ask for pardon because of her belief in this one-sided love..damnation in hell according to catholic theology.) in general, every character is redeemed with some saving grace, and even the old-lace (the suprmee embodiment of green's misogynism) becomes a dignified character with ease and grace as well as her fervent belief in justice and integrity.
thus, the new adaptation of brighton rock is an eulogy for the countercultural england during 1960s when the demarcation between good and evil are smeared off with the liberal containment of human complexities. the ending also has a mild dose of grotesque beauty which permeats in oscar wilde's dorian gray, the fragile aesthetic juxtaposition of youthful beauty and horrid disfigurement as pinkie brown gets his fair-lad features marred by the acid, stumbles poetically off the cliff in dismay. (gee, he is such a feast for the eye, cheers to the homme fatale!)
BUT i must say, i prefer to the hard-boiled 1947 noirsh version when good and evil are distinctively definited in dichtomy, which is just as stark as its black-white chiaroscuro cinematogrpahy. villains there are vile enough to invite your rashing rejoice for sins just as richard widmark ecstacticly pushes the old lady on wheelchair off the stairs in "the kiss of death."