Brighton Rock Reviews
Director: Rowan Joffe
Summary: In hopes of silencing a waitress (Andrea Riseborough) who saw him kill another criminal, a young thug (Sam Riley) decides to romance her and suss out how much she knows. But at what point does his premeditated plot blossom into true passion? And are either party's motives 100 percent pure? John Hurt and Helen Mirren co-star in writer-director Rowan Joffe's film adaptation of Graham Greene's novel.
My Thoughts: "I've never read the novel nor have I seen the previous film, so I have nothing to compare it to. I feel those of us who haven't read the book will be at a disadvantage, for this film was made for those who have read it. There are some things that happen that are not explained which sometimes doesn't bother me, but in this case it does cause you feel lost. The screen writer and director should have been more clear with some of the scenes. Like for instance, Pinkie. Does he or doesn't he love Rose? But then maybe were suppose to come to our own conclusion on the matter. All I know is this film makes me want to read the book just so I can fully understand the film cause it is an interesting one besides the plot holes. Some of the character's are under-developed and leave you guessing at how they all fit. Helen Mirren is Rose's boss, but then there is incident where you are to believe she may be Rose's mother, but it's never confirmed. Things like that can drive a movie lover mad. Moving on...The acting is pretty great. Helen Mirren is fantastic. I try to see any and every film she attaches herself to. I think she's a wonderful actor. The movie itself is a dark tale of love, murder, and revenge. See it if you've read the book or like being lost in a film."
Brighton Rock is highlighted by an expressionistic style that uses shadows, rain and religious iconography to set the mood. These stylish visual flourishes are further complemented by a musical score by award-winning composer Martin Phipps. At once ominous and beautiful, it's reminiscent of the sumptuous music of a classic 1940s film noir. It's decidedly old fashioned and I enjoyed how the vocal cues complemented the action on screen. This is the feature debut for screenwriter Rowan Joffé who just happens to be the son of director Roland Joffé (The Killing Fields, The Mission). Talk about pressure. Brighton Rock is not the hard-hitting political story his father is know for, but he does have a way with setting a mood. The evocative music and poetic visuals help dress up a slight story that is still is an excellent character study. There is much to enjoy in this minor, but entertaining period drama.
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."