out of Five
Running time: 111
Joffe's disappointing re-interpretation of Greene's 1938 novel starts brilliantly but quickly becomes flat and boring thanks to a dull script, lifeless direction and unlikeable characters, while the update to 1964 adds nothing of interest.
What's it all about?
Directed by Rowan Joffe, Brighton Rock is supposedly a re-interpretation of Graham Greene's 1938 novel rather than a remake of the Boulting Brothers' 1947 film, although it borrows heavily from that too. Shifting the story to 1964, it stars Sam Riley as vicious Brighton thug Pinkie, who witnesses the murder of gang boss Kite (an under-used Geoff Bell) and kills rival gang member Fred Hale (Sean
Harris) in revenge, aided by cohorts Spicer (Phil Davis), Dallow (Nonso Anozi) and Cubitt (Craig Parkinson).
However, in luring Hale to his death, Spicer is spotted by Rose (Andrea Riseborough), a waitress at the cafe owned by Ida (Helen Mirren), so Pinkie starts dating her to find out how much she knows and to prevent her from talking. Meanwhile, Ida (who was Hale's ex-lover) suspects Rose of knowing more than she's letting on, rival gang boss Colleoni (Andy Serkis) takes an interest in Pinkie and Spicer becomes increasingly paranoid.
The film starts brilliantly, with a gripping opening scene, atmospheric photography by John Mathieson, gorgeous production design work and a terrific score from Martin Phipps. However, shortly after Hale's murder, it completely runs out of steam and collapses under the weight of a confused, directionless script and ill-defined characters (Serkis' Colleoni, for example, seems to belong to a completely different film).
The film's biggest problem is Riley, who plays Pinkie as such a sneering, unlikeable thug, that his romancing of Rose fails to convince you – it's fine for the audience to know he doesn't really love her, but the film gives us nothing to suggest what she sees in Pinkie in the first place. On top of that, the dialogue is depressingly flat and uninspired so all the scenes lack urgency or tension and the life seems to drain out of the film.
Similarly, moving the story to 1964 adds nothing except a stylish shot of Pinkie accidentally leading a procession of mods on a stolen moped and a mods vs rockers riot scene that serves as a convenient cover for a murder. However, to all intents and purposes, the rest of the story still seems to take place in the 1940s, so the update just seems like an excuse for a few Quadrophenia references.
Despite a promising start, Brighton Rock is a disappointing, frequently dull drama that never comes to life.