The remake debate goes another round with this new take on Graham Greene's 1938 novel of crime in Brighton, whose 1947 filming by the Boulting brothers gave Richard Attenborough his career-defining role as an actor. Here, Last Resort and The American screenwriter Rowan Joffe, in his directing debut, updates the story to the 1964 mod riots in Brighton, while keeping intact the tale of mob hand Pinkie Brown (a seething Sam Riley) and his purely calculating courtship of hard-bitten but naïve waitress Rose (Andrea Riseborough) strictly to ensure she won't denounce him for murder.

     The seediness of the Brighton cheap holiday milieu remains intact, and Mr. Joffe's instincts are to run with the film noir aspect of the plot, fetishizing the period crime angle through a thick series of nice visual flourishes that heighten the ironic tragedy of it all: Rose hasn't necessarily any illusions regarding Pinkie's guilt, but she can't help loving him because he appeared to care for her more than any other man in her life. The writer/director has said his film is more of a new adaptation of the book rather than a remake of the Boulting film (though in fact Mr. Joffe lifts the coda straight from it), and his is an interesting take, by presenting the story as a "last gasp" of an old England about to vanish under the pop culture revolution of the 1960s: Pinkie's mentor and gang boss Kite, whose death gets the ball rolling, is presented as a former army man lost in the modern days; Mr. Riley's Pinkie is an angry young man with ambitions beyond his league and a comeuppance from his elders due any minute; Ms. Riseborough's Rose is a miserable working-class girl ready to do anything that will allow her to escape her familial prison, even if she is merely exchanging one prison for another.

     Mr. Joffe's handling can sometimes be too flashy and flamboyant for the film's good, but his blatant "everything but the kitchen sink" approach isn't ill suited to a tale that he decided to film as a combination of "angry young men" sordid realism and hyper-romanticised film noir. It may not always work, but at least Brighton Rock follows through on its convictions, and the generally high level of the performances mean there's really never a dull moment.

Cast: Sam Riley, Andrea Riseborough, Andy Serkis, John Hurt, Helen Mirren

Director: Rowan Joffe
Screenplay: Mr. Joffe, from the novel Brighton Rock by Graham Greene
Cinematography: John Mathieson  (colour, processing by Technicolor, Panavision widescreen)
Music: Martin Phipps
Designer: James Merifield
Costumes: Julian Day
Editor: Joe Walker
Producer: Paul Webster (Kudos Pictures for Studiocanal Features, BBC Films and The UK Film Council)
United Kingdom/France, 2010, 110 minutes

Screened: DVD, Lisbon, September 16th 2012


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