Brighton Rock | Film review
A new film version of Graham Greene’s novel is all costume design and no feeling.
This latest adaptation of Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock retains its author’s characteristically morbid sense of Catholicism while ditching the wit and flavorful location footage of the 1947 film version. Instead of Richard Attenborough’s disturbingly convincing psychopath, Sam Riley’s Pinkie Brown is now an angry young hood who commits his first murder out of rage rather than calculation. In every other respect, though, he’s a monster: When he needs to win over witness-waitress Rose (Andrea Riseborough) to silence her, Pinkie’s feigned affection doesn’t make him seem like a normal human for a second. His eyes are so reptilian he’s practically a velociraptor.
Rowan Joffe’s update steals from various films without ever synthesizing its own tone. Transplanted to the ’60s and full of sharp-looking mods riding bikes and rioting, the new Brighton Rock is heavily indebted to 1979’s Quadrophenia. Elsewhere—as when Pinkie holds Rose over a cliff, then embraces her—Joffe appears to be making a gloss on Wuthering Heights. Later, Pinkie’s amorality and lobotomized sneer turn him into a horror-movie villain. Lugubrious and humor-averse in every mode, Joffe’s film is heavy with religious symbolism and references to historical turmoil, but it shows no real investment in their meaning. The sole innovation is to have Pinkie take advantage of the mod riots as a cover for his own crimes. Still, the images have no connection to the time period: The movie is all costume design and no feeling.