Sometimes a gangster film, sometimes a romantic drama, Brighton Rock doesn’t quite know what it wants to be. It is the second adaptation of Graham Green’s 1938 novel, following a 1947 film starring Richard Attenborough.
This version transports the action to 1964, to tell the story of Pinkie (Riley), a young gangster who murders the man who killed his mentor. To cover his tracks Pinkie gets involved with Rose (Riseborough), a poor and naïve waitress he despises, and whose protective boss (Mirren) is determined to bring him down. Pinkie’s efforts further complicate his situation in the Brighton underworld.
Brighton Rock is an impeccable period film – the kind that the British industry specialises in – but it cannot overcome its two main flaws. The first is the casting of Sam Riley as Pinkie, an actor who simply looks too old to portray the supposedly 17-year-old character, and who creates a one-dimensional psychopath that is almost impossible to relate to. The second problem is that the story has been set in front of a very particular historical background – in this case, the clash of the youth subcultures of the Mods and Rockers – and simply assumes that audiences know about these local events. A pivotal scene takes place in the midst of one of those riots, and those who have never heard of the Mods and Rockers will be left absolutely confused about what’s going on.
The film’s saving grace is Dame Helen Mirren as the fearless woman trying to bring the anti-hero to justice, and Riseborough’s breakthrough performance in a role originally written for Carey Mulligan. She shows promising talent, so much so that one can only wish that more time had been devoted to Rose’s story instead of on generic mafia war moments.
Film: Extras: none Miguel Gonzalez