Sunday, 20 February 2011

'Brighton Rock' Review

'Brighton Rock' (dir: Rowan Joffe, 2010/2011), Cert: 15

As a current resident of Brighton, I am fully aware of the passion Brightonians have for ‘Brighton Rock’; both Graham Greene’s classic novel and the Boulting Brothers 1947 film adaptation starring Richard Attenborough, so I wasn’t surprised to hear many people up in arms about the remake, and the fact that it’s time frame had been changed from the 40s to the 60s. As a fan of both the original movie and novel, I was more intrigued about the update than annoyed. It stars the brilliant Sam Riley and Helen Mirren, plus Andrea Riseborough, Andy Serkis, Phil Davis and John Hurt so the cast is incredibly strong, but is that enough to sell the movie to the more sceptical viewer?
 ‘Brighton Rock’ follows the antics of teenage gangster Pinkie Brown (Riley); a razor-wielding maniac who becomes involved in a vicious act of murder. Before the act takes place, a seaside snap is taken which, if it falls into the wrong hands, could be devastating evidence. The person with access to the photograph is Rose (Riseborough); a shy and classic young woman who works in a cafe. Pinkie sets out to befriend Rose and gain the ticket to that vital evidence. Rose falls madly in love with Pinkie and he has her eating from the palm of his hand. Rose’s boss Ida (Mirren) suspects foul-play and sets off on her own personal mission to uncover the truth behind this terrible crime.
 The story is identical to the original text apart from it now being set in the 60s, which adds a new dimension of political and sociological identity and culture to the tale. The 60s was the era of the ‘baby boomers’, teenagers, and of course ‘Mods and Rockers’ who appear heavily in this film. Some parts actually feel like they were ripped from ‘Quadrophenia’ (1979) but this isn’t a complaint. All of this works well and binds together nicely, plus it allows new viewers who are unfamiliar with the previous entries to benefit, however, somewhere along the way, the story seems to get slightly forgotten. For what it’s worth, this is a good film with great performances (apart from Andy Serkis, but I’ll get to that) and stunning cinematography, but too often it feels baggy and lacking pace. At 111 minutes, it seems a lot longer than it should.
 Director Rowan Joffe is clearly skilled when presenting scenery and space, but at points, his actors feel very forced into the scene which makes the film look cramped and overpowering. Considering the majority of this picture was filmed in Eastbourne, Joffe obviously understands how Brighton looks, feels and is as a thriving part of seaside society. Many shots made me think “Oh that’s....” and I found myself smiling at the perfectly subtle images of Brighton’s landmarks which felt refreshing. I can’t stand it when movies rub locations and landmarks so heavily in your face. I know the Eiffel Tower is in Paris ok?

Still from 'Brighton Rock' (dir: Rowan Joffe, 2010/2011)
 As I previously mentioned, the performances are brilliant, especially Riseborough who is intoxicating as Rose. The audience feel suffocated for her under the hideous treatment of Pinkie and at points, you want to psychically shout out to her and tell her to leave him. It’s a fantastic performance and one that will continue to impress through multiple viewings. Riley is also fantastic as Pinkie; he may not feel as cool as Dickie’s portrayal, but his screen presence is utterly menacing and terrifying. His harsh husky voice compliments the cruel words his spits perfectly. Considering Riley is in his 30s, he looks as fresh faced and youthful as ever. For all those who doubted him as Pinkie will probably have a change of heart after seeing the film. Mirren is great as always, she never needs much explaining. Ida however, is the character who has changed the most from the original movie. In the ’47 film, she is seen as a bit of a ‘floozy’ who with a few Ports down her will head home with any man, whilst here she mighty still be a foxy older woman, but she is stern and relentless in her investigations. Mirren uses her classic touches and her wonderful dialogue delivery to give Ida a whole new dimension.

 Davis is great as Spicer and performs with great skill. It must have felt a bit surreal for him returning to ‘Mod’ Brighton considering he was also a star in ‘Quadrophenia’. Hurt is also very good and provides some much needed humour, but unfortunately he only pops up a few times and those feel very brief.
 However, Andy Serkis’ brief performance as Italian-British gangster Mr. Colleoni is excruciatingly bad. It’s utterly cringe-worthy and his costumes look like something Del Boy or Prince would wear. I found myself sinking in my seat due to embarrassment when he was on-screen, and considering he’s a vital part of the story, and supposedly scary, it was a huge distraction.
 Overall, ‘Brighton Rock’ is a perfectly adequate remake that works well as a stand-alone picture and a visual spectacle, but it’s lack of ‘get up and go’ made it feel like a slight drag and Serkis’ role threw me massively out of the narrative. For those who are new to the ‘Rock’ world, I’m sure you will find this to be a great piece of British crime cinema, but to film buffs and old-timers, you might respect the performances, but feel just a little disappointed.

Top notch cinematography and a great bundle of performances, but beware it’s time-stretching abilities and bring a blanket to protect your eyes from Andy.
By Chris Haydon

No comments:

Post a Comment