x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Brighton Rock

A remake of the 1947 film, Brighton Rock is one stylish gangster drama.

Brighton Rock
Director: Rowan Joffé
Starring: Sam Riley, Andrea Riseborough, Helen Mirren, Phil Davis, John Hurt, Andy Serkis
***

Remakes can be dangerous – particularly when it's a beloved British classic. Just ask the Coen brothers, whose reworking of the Ealing comedy The Ladykillers is the one blemish on an otherwise spotless CV.

So the director Joffé must be either mad or bold for taking on the Boulting Brothers' 1947 film Brighton Rock. Based on Graham Greene's 1938 novel, this seaside-set tale of sadistic violence featured an unforgettable Richard Attenborough as the razor-wielding Pinkie. Now we have Riley.

So good was his performance as the Joy Division singer Ian Curtis in Control, and he's an able presence here, even if he doesn't quite boast the cold-hearted malevolence of his predecessor. Updating the action to 1964, Joffé sets this tale of gang warfare in the height of the Mods v Rockers clashes that dominated Britain's seafronts.

This Quadrophenia-like indulgence aside, he sticks closely to Greene's plot, as Pinkie sets about marrying the naïve waitress Rose (Riseborough) – a witness in a murder he is involved in – in order to keep her silence. With the Brighton promenade drenched in shadows like a latter-day film noir, it's a handsome movie, fleshed out by fine support (Hurt, Mirren). A pity that Joffé replicates the original film's candy-coated ending, rather than Greene's bleaker denouement. Boldness, it seems, doesn't come easy.