Directed by Rowan Joffe
To begin with, teenage bandit Pinkie Brown, eager to prove he's not a kid (or a crayon), bashes in a man's head with a Brighton Rock—not the popular candy, which later proves just as adequate, but a plain old seaside boulder. Next, he must render pale naïf Rose (Andrea Riseborough), unwitting witness, harmless—by marrying her, for instance, so she cannot testify against him, or by other means.
Around the young and the murderous, the slightly seedy seaside town of Brighton goes about its business of cheap tinfoil delights, outlined in high proto-noir in Graham Greene's 1938 novel, and no less bleakly appealing in Rowan Joffe's adaptation. Unfortunately, Greene's principal conflict—Rose and Pinkie's gloom-and-doom morality vs. everyone else's mulish worldliness—has been jettisoned, but the action is cleverly transposed from the novel's 1930s to 1964, that year's riots proving good cover and context for the doings of Pinkie's small—and shrinking—mob. Against the tableaux of scootering Mods, destitute townies, tough old dames and tailored gangsters, it's sickeningly fun to watch Pinkie spin faster and faster, knowing, as we do, that he can't but dash himself against the times.
But just as Pinkie, made all the crueler by his Catholic fear of dying in sin, doesn't translate well into the changing Brighton seascape—his inherited racket is being taken over by the sleek, posh Colleoni—Greene's story looks—and sounds—strange with its central conflict excised, no matter how aptly Sam Riley's Pinkie scowls or Riseborough's Rose bursts into tears. As Ida, restauranteur and friend of the deceased, Helen Mirren strides through it all, her determination ringing all the more true in the midst of the movie's hollowness. By the last few minutes and their strange hint of divine intervention, you're happy to settle for a pint of ale and a bit of worldly love.
Opens August 26