With a supporting cast that includes Helen Mirren, John Hurt and Andy Serkis it would seem odd that Brighton Rock, a remake of John Boulting’s 1947 film, was overlooked at this year’s Baftas. Yet the reason is a simple one. It is, quite simply, not very good. Director Rowan Joffe’s adaptation of Graham Greene’s novel, beautifully shot as it is, is frequently underwhelming and is let down by the one-dimensional persona of it’s lead character, the anti-hero Pinkie Brown (Sam Riley).
The film starts promisingly however, depicting the teenage Pinkie’s rise to prominence within a Brighton-based protection mob. Events take a turn for the worst following the murder of an enemy gangster which has potentially damaging implications for the mob and for Pinkie in particular.
It is at this point that Pinkie meets Rose (Andrea Riseborough), a waitress who works at a local café owned by the earthy Ida (Helen Mirren). Pinkie woos the timid Rose and the pair begin their (no pun intended) rocky romance.
Blinded by her love for the moody, fellow ardent Catholic, Rose is oblivious to Pinky’s true intentions. His principal motive for pursuing this flawed romance is to eradicate the prospect of Rose testifying against him in a murder trail as she has valuable inside information.
Ida, however, is not so naïve. Suspecting Pinkie to be the murderer whilst being deeply concerned for her employee’s welfare, she takes it upon herself to play detective including arranging a meeting with influential playboy and criminal gang leader Mr. Colleoni (Andy Serkis).
The stakes are raised further when Pinkie and Rose tie the knot leading to a frantic finale which leaves Pinkie’s fate hanging in the balance.
On paper it has all the makings of an exciting, pacey thriller, particularly with its swinging sixties imagery and the visible, simmering presence of Brighton’s mods and rockers. Unfortunately interest wanes at a relatively early point in the film and this is thanks to the lack of complexity to Pinkie’s character. There are no grey areas and the absence of any revelations of his past, which would account for his constant snarling and wrongdoings, do nothing to sustain any interest in him, and therefore his doomed romance with Rose (the apparent focus of the film). It is a shame that Ida was not the central protagonist. Her worldly demeanour gives the picture some credibility at least and demonstrates that Helen Mirren can thrive as well in a supporting role as in a lead.
As film adaptations of Graham Greene novels go, this is not a particularly memorable one.
Best line: The line where Ida, while in the lounge of the hotel, suggests to Phil (John Hurt) that they order a room.
Best performance: Helen Mirren as Ida.
Watch this if you liked: The End of the Affair, The Third Man.