When bad is good
It’s not often that a film allows its protagonist to be repulsive, someone you actually hope will get punished in the end. Yet Joffe allows Riley to turn his character Pinkie, a ruthless and desperate young gang leader, into such a horrid figure that even the sound of his light, rattling voice sends chills down your spine – to good effect.
Pinkie is as tough as Brighton Rock – the hard candy found at Brighton Pier. After a murder, he is forced to team up with a wide-eyed waitress (Riseborough), the only one who can provide him with an alibi in order to cover his tracks. She falls in love with him and begins a slowdance with Brighton’s harsh under world.
Shot in cold, coloured frames, constantly revolving around the skeleton-like pier with the sound of crushing waves beneath it, the film looks as cool as it is. Riley is sublimely vicious; Riseborough, disturbingly naïve; and Helen Mirren’s elegant tea shop manager with a penchant for gang member friends, utterly vampy.
Graham Greene’s 1938 novel is beautifully transferred to the big screen (for the second time – the first film adaptation was in 1947). Though Joffe sets the story in 1964 instead of the 1930s, he fortunately doesn’t mess with the noir-esque atmosphere so perfectly suited to the rough coastline of Britain.
BRIGHTON ROCK | Directed by Rowan Joffe (UK 2010) wwith Sam Riley, Andrea Riseborough. Opens April 21