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RUNNING TIME 111 Minutes
STUDIO MPI Home Video
• Behind The Scenes
• Theatrical Trailer
An adaptation of Graham Greene’s classic novel about a small-town hood who marries a waitress who witnessed him murdering a rival thug in order to keep her quiet. As his gang begins to doubt his abilities, the man becomes more desperate and violent.
Director Rowan Joffe Starring Sam Riley, Andrea Riseborough, Helen Mirren, John Hurt, Andy Serkis, Philip Davis
A “re-imagination” of a classic piece of religion questioning literature that has been used as the basis to many of the stronger characters of today.
To be honest, I am very unfamiliar with the works of Graham Greene. I have heard his name mentioned often, respect the influence he has had on film and the complexity they breathed with the few encounters I have experienced. Brighton Rock was based off a Greene novel published in 1938 and originally adapted into film in 1947. This re-imagination of the film seems to struggle with the lack of depth of the protagonist being upstaged by the mature evolvement of the supporting parts. The cruxes of these supporting characters can be linked from the original work of Greene to some of the more modern high profile characters of recent television and film.
The film is set in 1964, at the choice of the director due to the legalization of members only gambling in Great Britain circa 1960, the wildly colorful angst driven youth slangfully identified as “mods” and it was the last year that the death penalty was enforced in England. The motivations of the characters remain faithful as a cross somewhere between a mafia tale and religion and the sway love can have on each. Just like Boardwalk Empire, there is a use of factual events used as a backdrop to a character driven violence based drama. The comparison remains even stronger as class wars occur linked to a tourist trap pier, and often action beats occurs somewhere nearby.
The biggest problem I had was with the seemingly one dimensional lead, Pinkie, played by Sam Riley. The character does show growth throughout the film, but that growth is only in a single direction and one that is not easy to connect or empathize with. His character arc strongly reminded me of Jackie Aprile Jr. on The Sopranos, weak and scared at first, redirecting his fear into a relationship and the allowing his anger to murder his human side and turn him into a self-destructive robot, destroying everything and everyone it comes in contact with. There was a part of me that knew I was supposed to feel compassion for him but presumably Pinkie’s human emotion got left on the cutting room floor. Sam Riley appeared to have the right characteristics to both be a young person making mistakes and a rebel without a clue, so I believe the issue was with the vision of the character and the adaptation into film.
Andrea Riseborough on the other hand, was nominated as Best Actress in the British Independent Film Awards for her performance as Rose. Her character Rose enveloped enough of an emotional roller coaster to create a whirlwind of motivations, making her the anchor to this film. At first appearance, she doesn’t exude the charisma that a leading lady should. She was upstaged by an actor that didn’t register as a major role, add to that she looked snooty and quiet and you wind up with a shrewd unattractive character that one cannot imagine being of interest. The next time we see her donning a servants outfit being all smiles and carrying an interesting conversation with Pinkie, clearly the focus of interest without needing the script to tell us so. I don’t recall seeing Riseborough in anything else but she is a living embodiment of what Hollywood tries to recreate ever so often, the girl who looks homely and frail that with a flip of the hair, a smile and a change of outfit she becomes strikingly confident and radiantly beautiful. Her character faces many very interesting challenges that led me to believe the story was about to become similar to Mallory from Natural Born Killers only to leave me wondering which allegiance would sway her more, Pinkie or Ida (Played by Helen Mirren), god or gangster’s wife/accomplice. I even felt a she strongly resembled Rebecca Hall from The Town.
The biggest parallel to modern day is The Sopranos’ Carmela Soprano. The feeling that church is somehow still involved though the love she has pulls her ever so far away from her religious beliefs. As she falls more in love with her man, her knowledge of the devil he really is does not deter her emotions from progressing, and it makes matters worse when she keeps attempting to have her save herself. She knows nothing good will come of this man, but as many know, we often look to find those most similar to what we are familiar with. One scene has us witness her father and her lover actually bid over her worth as she quietly listens from an adjoining room. She never accepts completely, but loves unconditionally, very much the struggle of Carmela Soprano for 7 seasons, and a performance that echoes Edie Falco’s unforgettable mob queen. The acquaintances she has only hurry her bad decisions and though they attempt to protect and redeem her before she pays for the sins of her lover.
There are a variety of strong actors filling up the supporting roles. British Character actor Philip Davis and Helen Mirren both play sizable roles as an older gangster and Rose’s Employer mother figure. John Hurt and Andy Serkis both have minimal screen time, but do the best with what they have. Nonso Anozie is overall friend and protector. The mostly seasoned cast is believable and enjoyable to watch.
Director Rowan Joffe left a little to be desired with the one dimensional portrayal of Pinkie. He let the DP choose a lense that imitated a 1960 feel, but without knowing that ahead of time I was left thinking it was just a poor film to video transfer that occasionally suffered from low de-interlacing. Though Artistically chosen, it felt more like a mistake than a planned choice. The sound was good, and the colors were bright and vibrant. The period setting was well done, cars and building resembling the 60’s and the costumes carried breathed an air of nostalgia into the actors.
The DVD was missing some of the more common features, such as a running commentary, but made up for it with a slew of 5 – 10 minute interviews with the cast and crew. The interviews would flash a question on the screen and then the person would answer the question and elaborate upon it further. The behind the scenes and the featurette were par for the course, providing additional information, which were both fun to watch and well paced due to additional information from the source material being well known and the previous film rendition being used as a comparison. They also include a trailer.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars