MPI // 2011 // 111 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Roy Hrab (Retired) // January 18th, 2012
"I've got to be getting on."
Brighton Rock is based on the 1938 novel by Graham Greene. I own the Graham Greene book. I've read the Graham Greene book. And this film is nowhere near as a good as the Graham Greene book.
England, 1964: The Mods and Rockers, youth gangs, are rioting all over the country, including the seaside town of Brighton. However, there are more nefarious criminal gangs lurking about. Pinkie Brown (Sam Riley, Control) is a member of a group of small time thugs, but he's got the ambition. And he's willing to do anything to get there, including murder and marrying Rose (Andrea Riseborough, Made In Dagenham), a woman he detests. However, Pinkie doesn't count on the righteous Ida Arnold (Helen Mirren, The Queen) pursuing him relentlessly for his misdeeds.
Like many of Greene's works, Brighton Rock the book is heavy on Catholic doctrine, with Rose and Pinkie both being overtly Catholic. For example, Pinkie is obsessed with sin and hell. He carries no guilt for any of his crimes (including murder) and yet is certain that he's going to hell. He feels he can gain success in the material world, though fails miserably at attaining his dream. This deep Catholic belief of Good vs. Evil are contrasted by the ethical-for-ethical-sake composition of Ida (Right vs. Wrong).
Unfortunately, Brighton Rock the film discards much of the Catholicism. By itself, this is neither good nor bad. The problem is nothing fills the vacuum. Pinkie is presented as little more than a pure sociopath and hollow monster. And there's little to explain why Rose chooses to spend any time at all with Pinkie, let alone marry him, given his corrosive personality and abuse. What's worse, the distinction between the two young adults and Ida is lost. As a result, the film fails to convey the critical internal dialogue of the characters that powers the original story. Instead, we get people doing stuff for no particular reason.
The open and close of the film also suffers because of this straying from the source material. One change involves the character of Hale (Sean Harris, Harry Brown) who is murdered by Pinkie and sets the story into motion. In the novel, Hale meets Ida for the first time shortly before he is killed. This makes her pursuit of Pinkie one of truth and justice in quite a pure sense. In the film, Hale is a gang member rather than journalist, and has some kind of past relationship with Ida. Yet she doesn't seem to be the type to associate knowingly with gang members, and the past link taints her investigation with sentimentality. The book ends with Rose about to listen to the record with a horrifying message. The film ends with Rose listening to the record, though -- through a contrived twist -- she's prevented from hearing the complete statement, leaving her with the opposite of the truth. These changes undermine Greene's original themes and replace them with nothing.
Presented in standard definition 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, the transfer is clean and solid. There's not much color to the visuals, but what is there comes through without problem. The Dolby 5.1 surround mix is similarly unexceptional and workmanlike. There are bonus features included, though none of them memorable -- a featurette praising the film, some behind-the-scenes clips, interviews with the cast and crew, and a trailer.
Read the book, or watch The End Of The Affair, which is a far superior adaptation of a Greene novel.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 111 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Official Site