Saturday, 12 February 2011
Aye, SO... Last week for uni I had to write a review of a recently-released film or do a short round-up of the week's TV. Rather than try and tackle My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding or The Joy of Teen Sex in fifty words - an IMPOSSIBLE task, they are both so deliciously heinous to condense - my pal Carlin and I decided since we both wanted to see the new Brighton Rock film so badly, we may as well kill two birds with one stone.
Because I'm feeling lazy today, and fairly uninspired sartorially, here's what I wrote (more or less) for y'all to chew over:
Visual, visceral and violent, Rowan Joffe’s reimagining of Graham Greene’s classic 1938 novel Brighton Rock packs an unforgettable punch.
Despite having neither seen the original 1947 film starring Richard Attenborough as baby-faced killer Pinkie, nor read the book (shame on me, I hear my fellow English Literature alumni cry en masse) nonetheless I’m suitably convinced it stands alone as a gritty and poignant film in its own right.
The excellent Sam Riley of Ian Curtis biopic Control (2007) is outstanding in the lead role of Pinkie Brown – a young, ambitious gangster in a world of old dogs, who brutally murders a veteran of the rival gang as an act of revenge. When innocent waitress Rose (Andrea Riseborough) becomes linked to the crime, the suave but ruthless Pinkie must woo and ultimately marry her to save his own skin. The odd couple (Rose conjures up an image of Eastenders’ Little Mo, only more pathetic, and Pinkie resembles a positively Satanic Trevor) are pursued by pier-front cafe owner Ida (Helen Mirren) along with fancy man Phil (John Hurt) - the only two good eggs in Brighton it seems.
From Pinkie and Rose’s initial meeting to the climactic ending, the audience is kept on the edge of their seat, willing Pinkie to see the light and reform; to fall in love with the smitten and somewhat sandwich-short Rose, and escape a Brighton caught in the grip of the 1960s youth riots and clashes between mods and rockers. The tragic beauty of the film is that he never appears to, not outwardly anyway.
In one telling scene, Rose asks Pinkie to make her a record from a stall on the pier, and Sam Riley’s sneering face as he spits “I hate ya, I hate everything about ya,” onto the vinyl, sums up the true darkness in his heart. Rose can almost be forgiven for wanting to inspire Pinkie to change his hellish ways, but in another of many disturbing scenes, while Pinkie pinches the skin on the back of her hand for a few agonizing minutes, Rose replies that he can keep doing it if he likes it. Make no mistake there’s no tenderness here. It’s hard to sympathize with or root for a character as pathetic as Rose, and the intention is that we clearly should. But perversely I found myself on Pinkie’s side.
From the same producers as Atonement, Brighton Rock is cinematically and visually brilliant. The dull, shadowy pier, dreary surrounding seascape and sweeping panoramic shots all enhance the sinister mood which builds gradually to epic proportions. The 1960s setting and implicit background violence created by the mods and rockers beach-front battles add an extra layer of believability to the gangsters throwaway “carvings” and casual brutality.
With lashings of Catholic guilt, emphasized beautifully by an original, almost operatic score by Martin Phipps (think toned-down Godfather), plenty atmospheric cutaways to crucifixes and talk of Hell, Pinkie’s eventual damnation is expected but nonetheless shocking to witness.
And it’s Sam Riley’s Pinkie that makes this film what it is: a tragic and haunting portrayal of selfish lovelessness and ruthless violence amidst a changing world where the young are to be feared.
Brighton Rock is released in cinemas nationwide from the 4th of February.