Published Sep 22, 2010When people forget about the new and embrace the past far too tightly, great things rarely occur. The '60s might have been happening (at the time), but 40 years on, dark bouffant revivalism just feels wrong somehow. Brighton Rock (based on Graham Greene's novel) is an easy watch, steeped in shrouded psychedelia and an over-the-top film noir aesthetic, but its arrangement is seldom inventive, or "far out there, man."
Sam Riley (who has yet to surpass his breakthrough performance in Control) plays Pinkie, a mafia thug who rises in the ranks when his mob boss is killed by a larger gang. He sets out for revenge, but a witness to his follies, Rose (Andrea Riseborough), throws a spanner in the works. Pinkie must decide whether or not to kill or marry her.
Unfortunately, director Rowan Joffe doesn't fully explore why he chooses the latter option. Pinkie is perfectly content to kill members of his gang, declare to Rose how much he hates her, even threatening her with acid, but somehow doesn't have the chutzpah to dispose of an impressionable, love-sick teenager? The idea thrown about is that a wife can't testify against her husband. Then again, neither can a corpse.
This near-motionless piece, with religious iconography and faith-based allegories, thrums with a suspended overtone of highly stylized intrigue — a Brighton Confidential, if you will. But the third act is left hanging on the cross, even when Joffe slowly pats down the love-is-as-useless-as-an-appendix motif.
To make matters worse, Helen Mirren (as nosey barmaid Ida) and John Hurt (as the peripheral Phil Corkery) phone in their performances. The violence, and there is lots of it, is delivered decisively. But by taking the easy option of a firm, easily digested high, rather than truly petrifying content, the end result is more along the lines of satire rather than true crime. (Alliance)