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Brighton Rock (AF)


Stars: Sam Riley, Andrea Riseborough, Helen Mirren, John Hurt, Andy Serkis, Phil Davis, Geoff Bell, Steven Robertson

Director: Rowan Joffe

Writer (he scripted George Clooney’s ego-driven The American) and first-time director Joffe’s version of Graham Greene’s novel and the classic 1947 John Boulting film deserves a place in British film history as one of the long list of redundant remakes. The bad news for British moviegoers is that they have already paid twice for the film – once with funds from the Lottery and again with television licence money since Brighton Rock is a BBC films production. The prospect, then, of paying a third time to see the film in a cinema is one that should be approached with great caution.

The plot – the young woman who witnesses a young thug murdering another hoodlum is romanced by the killer, who marries her to prevent her from testifying against him – bears a reasonable relationship with Greene’s original. But – presumably in an attempt not to be judged against the 1947 film, Joffe has set the story in 1960s Brighton (the best performance, incidentally, comes from Eastbourne which reportedly, stood in for Brighton where necessary) so that he can inject sex, bad language and (badly handled) the celebrated Mods vs Rockers riots.

John Mathieson’s moody cinematography is an asset, as is Riseborough as the waitress witness. Unfortunately, her rather good performance is consistently undercut by Riley as the killer. Riley mistakes a constant glower more redolent of constipation than characterisation as good acting. Mirren, Riseborough’s concerned tea shop employer, sports a red wig and matching gaudy performance, Hurt goes through the motions competently, Davis produces yet another mild riff on his Cockney thug character and Serkis oils the screen elegantly as a gangland boss.

Joffe’s uneven direction fails to overcome the problems raised by his screenplay, resulting in a minor TV movie with big-screen ambitions it signally fails to realise, topped by a risible melodramatic climax that would seem over-the-top in an overheated opera.

Alan Frank

UK 2010. UK Distributor: Optimum. Technicolor.
111 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 1, Swearing 3.

Review date: 03 Feb 2011