Second Sight

By Ross, Deborah | The Spectator, February 5, 2011 | Go to article overview

Second Sight


Ross, Deborah, The Spectator


Brighton Rock

15, Nationwide

Rabbit Hole

12A, Nationwide

Although I can't generally get too worked up about remakes, just as I can't get too worked up about most things these days - too old; too tired; too long in what teeth I still have left (four, I think) - I suppose this Brighton Rock does have its work cut out.

The director Rowan Joffe, who also wrote it, has said it should not be compared with John Boulting's 1947 classic film noir adaptation of the Graham Greene novel, starring Richard Attenborough as the unblinkingly sadistic Pinkie, and wishes it to be judged 'on its own terms', which is fair enough, but how can you? Once you have seen Boulting's film, how can you unsee it and erase your memory bank?

I wish I could unsee it, and start afresh, as Mr Joffe would like, but it's a big ask and while I don't normally mind a big ask - ask me, and ask me big, as I will often say to people; go as big as you dare - this particular ask had me utterly defeated and, ultimately, this film came off the worse. As much as Joffe may have returned to the book, and as much as this Brighton Rock departs from Boulting's, I still felt as if I'd already seen the definitive version of it. You may do better and, in a way, I hope you do, as I suspect this deserves a chance, but I just could not rise to the occasion, I'm afraid.

Joffe keeps the action in Brighton yet shifts it, time-wise, to 1964, just as the mods and rockers are gathering to fight it out on the seafront. I suppose this is intended to heighten the sense of imminent violence but, as the central story is essentially a claustrophobic one of dark back-alleys, swinging light bulbs in gloomy rooms and good v . evil played out on a stiflingly intimate scale, it seems largely irrelevant. The plot has been simplified, and now comes down to basic gang warfare between Mr Colleoni (Andy Serkis) and Pinkie Brown, the teenage psychopath, as played by Sam Riley, 31. Fine, make him older, but, if he is older, why does everyone keep calling him 'boy'?

Acclaimed for his performance in Control , Riley is a fine actor but here embodies brooding paranoia and cruelty on such a single note - eyes cast down; eyebrows thatched; gruff, monotonous voice - he's as much EastEnders villain as anything. The fact is, he's just too uncharismatic when it comes to Rose (Andrea Risborough), the none-too-bright waitress he must woo to prevent her ever testifying against him. …

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