Brighton Rock

Film, Drama
3 out of 5 stars
2 out of 5 stars
(21user reviews)
Brighton Rock.jpg
It’s easy to get dewy-eyed over a great old novel and film like ‘Brighton Rock’ and shriek when you hear that a young pretender is remaking it and – sacre bleu! – setting it in another period. What Rowan Joffe has done with this bold and intelligent, if flawed and maybe a little doomed (like Pinkie’s poor old Rose), remake is to go back to both the 1938 book and 1947 noir and transfer many of their elements from Brighton in the 1930s to the same town in 1964. The original film starred Richard Attenborough as amoral seaside crim Pinkie Brown, and here a brooding Sam Riley (Ian Curtis in ‘Control’) takes the lead, only now mods and rockers are hassling the deckchair crowd by fighting on the seafront and the death penalty has just one year left to run it course.

Joffe’s moving of the story to 1964 is a fair enough cry for originality on his part, but it’s also a tacit admission that you can’t move Greene’s story any further forward in time without changing it radically. Pinkie is a murderer whose Catholic faith and fear of hell and damnation make him dread the death penalty. He courts and marries naive local waitress Rose (an excellent Andrea Riseborough), an accidental witness to his crime, simply so she can’t testify against him in court. All of this – the Catholic guilt, the dread of capital punishment, the innocence of Rose – wouldn’t play well on the other side of the 1960s youth revolution.

There’s a lot of smart thinking behind this film, but I’m not convinced the 1964 setting is entirely successful. At its worst, it feels like a superficial add-on – a chance for Riley to cruise along the seafront on a moped. There’s also the sense of a 1930s story playing out against a 1960s background: Pinkie’s boss, Spicer, played entertainingly by Phil Davies, and his gang of bovver boys feel very pre-war. But maybe that’s the point: the 1960s were a turning point but not everyone was swept up in the revolution immediately.

The new setting works best for Rose, and the scene when she goes out and buys a trendy dress to match her new feeling of womanhood and impress her unimpressed new husband is very effective. If anyone is left at sea, it’s Riley; his Pinkie is charismatic, but a little one note. It’s a shame, too, that we don’t hear Pinkie’s reaction to all the mods-and-rockers action around him. Surely he has an opinion on this?

Joffe’s other big change is to focus more than the 1947 film on the ‘romance’ between Pinkie and new wife Rose and allow his story to amble down more by-ways, some of them involving hard-nosed Ida (Helen Mirren), recast as Rose’s boss at Snow’s cafeteria, but still Pinkie’s chief tormentor. The result of this welcome change in emphasis is that the noir momentum of the Boulting brothers’ movie is lost in favour of a more sensitive, inquiring take on real human relations. Some may find this new ‘Brighton Rock’ a slower, less energetic experience as a result, but at least there’s more room for Joffe to explore the dirty bedsits and towering cliffs of Brighton with some exquisite photography from John Mathieson and production design from James Merifield – even if, unlike the Boulting brothers, he shoots most of his film in nearby, better-preserved Eastbourne.


Release details

Release date:
Friday February 4 2011
111 mins

Cast and crew

Rowan Joffe
Rowan Joffe
Sam Riley
Andrea Riseborough
Andy Serkis
Helen Mirren
John Hurt
Nonso Anozie

Average User Rating

2.6 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:0
  • 4 star:4
  • 3 star:4
  • 2 star:3
  • 1 star:0
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Dreadful. There was not one coherent, beleivable character in the film and the story line was equally vacuous, rambling and inconclusive. Can anyone imagine the story line really taking place or has anyone ever met anyone resembling these one dimensional, inexplicable characters?

Not having seen the original, nor knowing anything about this film, I was thoroughly entertained and moved. Gorgeous set production,cinematography, and seat gripping action, twists and turns.. It has the feeling of a graphic novel..and the richness of characters as the movies such as 'Bugsby', but without the added prosthetics. Anytime you see people giving 1 star and 4 stars reviews, I would say 'go see that film'. Because great filmmaking is in the eye of the beholder..just sit back and enjoy this roller coaster ride..

I hadn't read the book and found the movie reasonable enough. I found the token casting of a minority a bit jarring given the period, it seemed a bit forced. Mirren was very good as Ida.

A pity the central relationship didn't catch fire. There was no sense of peril or of the one sided love. More time was spent elsewhere in the film so when you stop caring. Sam Riley was fine as Pinkie but the denouement on Beachy Head was fumbled and silly. And it shoudl've pushed the "eternity & hell" a bit more, the Catholicism is a huge theme in the book... so the miracle at the end seemed forced and muted. John Hurt and Helen Mirren were out of place and Andy Serkis is a ham - only thing he's been well cast in is SEX, DRUGS AND ROCK N ROLL imo... Great camera work , the sea at night in particular.... But a missed opportunity that didn't quite come together as planned...

Oddly, some people have defended this film. Somehow the clunky script; atrocious direction; sloppy acting and gormless cinematography have slipped them by. This hamfisted attempt at film making is akin to building a watch with bits of wood. Nothing works. Nothing coheres. And the whole dismal piece is all the worse for being British. One can't even blame the Americans. Unbelievably dreadful.

Based upon audience reviews, and mediocre reviews from critics, I wasn’t sure I’d like this film. I was concerned that Time Out had rated this film 3 stars on this site, which was bumped up to 4 stars on posters for the film. So I bit the bullet and went anyway. I was very, very pleasantly surprised. I was immediately struck by the superb (yes, superb) cinematography, which was consistent throughout. The story’s good, the script convincing, the settings, sets, buildings, pier, clothing and so on - all excellent – and great attention to detail. Best of all was Helen Mirren’s acting. Having appeared in some very mediocre films in the past decade, she shone as Ida. I don’t think I’ve seen her act so well since Elizabeth I, and in this she was certainly on a par with her role in The Long Good Friday. Highly recommended. (Confession – I haven’t seen the original film, nor read the novel – whether this is a good or bad thing, I don’t know.) The only change I’d make would be John Hurt – good though he is, he wasn’t particularly good in this. A generous four stars (which means I feel it should have been nominated for a couple of Oscars).

SO much fine work (costume, locations, cinematography) wasted on awful performances, unconvincing script and far too old fat mods commanded by a cruddy Pinky. If it had been toyed with by the director then accepted that he wasn't ready for another 5 years or so.....but now we will never know. Pity. 5/10 (oh, it will be on BBC by the end of next year so give it a miss until then. I rarely say that about BBC films. 5/10

I thoroughly enjoyed this film. The downbeat playing of Pinkie was much a more realistic portrayal of a small town criminal than you find in most films. He is basically ignorant of life and human emotions. The playing of him against the naive but emotionally more mature Rose is at the centre of the movie and to me it works..

I had to leave before the end. Regret to say that this was one of the worst British films I've seen for a long time.

Enjoyable re-working. Not as bad as a lot of reviewers are making out but not in the same high class as the novel or the 1947 version.

I loved Sam Riley in Control, but he's completely wrong for this part, he just isn't scary enough - my Gran could 'ave 'im and she's been dead for three years. At times he seems like he's channeling Kenneth Williams. If you really want to see hoodlums played effectively go an see the excellent NEDs. If you want to see Brighton Rock wait for it to reach it's natural home as BBC1 Sunday night drama.

The UKFC has developed so many decent scripts, why did they have to invest in this melodramatic school play? And the acting - OMG! The accents! The music! Horrible horrible.

Watched the film last night and have to admit disappointment. For on, as a Brightonian 'Eastbourne Rock' would have been more appropriate, but then perhaps that's a statement on the latter still being caught in a time lag. For the acting, Riley is weak and unconvincing, Riseborough is excellent, and Mirren and Hurt breeze through it, showing the others how it's done. It's as if you had to go into the film knowing the original, and indulging in your own sense of compare and contrast. Some scenes do work, but far too many don't - especially the ones involving Riley.

im perplexed by some of the negative reviews here for what is essentially an intelligent and stylish remake. I will probably go see it it again. the cinematography and production totally immerses you in the period, you can almost smell the sea air and mouldy bedsits. The fleeting moments of intimacy between Rose and Pinkie are the most gripping scenes and Sam Riley's subtle performance keeps you wondering right to the end whether he could have actually been on some level 'sweet on her'.

Style over substance is a nice way to describe this bizarre movie. Helen Mirren is sensational but she rarely isn't. Worst thing is the direction of the actors, encouraging the leads to overplay their emotions without suggesting they know what their characters are about! The Catholic subtext would have been interesting if it were understated, but here too director Joffe lends new meaning to 'overegging the pudding'.

I watched this film at the BFI Film Festival, it was the secret film on the final day and to be honest it ruined what was an otherwise great festival. Despite the cast & crew appearing at the end to discuss the film, people didn't hang about and I don't blame them; they had already lost 2 hrs of their lives. The film offers nothing, the Quadrophenia facsimile was embarrassing, Sam Riley was weak and simply not convincing. I left the cinema with only one thought, why...

I thought it was style over substance - fur coat and no knickers as my mum would say. I thought the mod think was clunky, especially the big scene on the seafront - ultimately pointless. As someone else had mentioned, it did feel very ITV1 drama, and maybe would have worked better like that.

Stylishly filmed, but Sam Riley just isn't menacing enough. Very grating soundtrack, it's like something from an ITV . cop drama. I'm not suggesting it should be like Quadraphenia, but there could be at least some nod to period or even something more adventurous like Kubrick would've used. Very obvious the director comes from a TV drama background. For me Phil Davies is the star as Pinkie's gang mate Spicer.

A waste of time, Riley plays a pastiche of Attenborough, whilst the mods/rockers scenes are frankly an embarassment. Fat balding 40 something scooterboys roped in as extras (for free use of their bikes) chanting "we are the mods" was cringeworthy in the extreme... Honestly, Joffe if you'd wanted to remake Quadrophenia, have the balls to do it and don't staple this nonsense onto a film that deserves better.