The title Brighton Rock suggests a fun, frivolous seaside film but that couldn’t be further from the reality. The original 1947 film saw a star-making performance by a young Richard Attenborough as the fresh-faced villain Pinkie, who is determined to rise to the top amongst Brighton’s criminal fraternity.
The remake takes us to the pebbly beaches at Brighton in 1964; the height of the Mods and Rockers gang wars and the emotionless Pinkie is revived by Sam Riley of Control fame.
The opening of the film sees the murder of a gang boss by flick knife, which sparks open warfare between rival mobs. Tea shop waitress Rose (Andrea Riseborough) inadvertently becomes involved, and so Pinkie sets about wooing her (in a rather unromantic manner) to make sure she won’t talk to the police.
The film is beautifully shot by John Mathieson, and first time director Rowan Joffe has created a strong atmosphere and equally strong British cast. Helen Mirren is brilliant in a supporting role as Rose’s boss Ida; a hard woman with red hair and a rather grim expression.
Riley’s Pinkie seems to be on one note, as he overplays the unrelenting brooding violence that is the core of the character. He is uncharismatic and cold hearted, and although Pinkie is never supposed to be sympathetic I found it impossible to feel any warmth towards him at all.
The stand out performance is by Andrea Riseborough. She is perfectly awkward and childlike as Rose, the naïve waitress who is drawn to Pinkie and his violent lifestyle; though quite why is ultimately hard to understand!
Overall it is very bold and dark experience with no light moments at all. It certainly isn’t the film to watch if you want a fun night out at the cinema!