Saturday, October 22, 2011

Brighton Rock (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Brighton Rock

If you prefer your criminals with a shiny razor rather than a slug from a gun, check out "Brighton Rock," an edgy film adapted from the 1938 novel by Graham Greene and directed by Rowan Joffe.

In this latest film version, Fred Hale, (Sean Harris) a frenetic  drifter with a face like an anemic fox gets mixed up in the mob. Enter the sociopath Pinkie Brown (Sam Riley). Pinkie is a real charmer. He makes Alex from "A Clockwork Orange" look like Charlie Brown. Since Hale picked the wholesome and kind waitress Rose (Andrea Riseborough) out of a crowd of pedestrians for a cover when pursued, Pinky tails the young lady. 

A relationship develops. This is even after the square jawed and smug Pinky tells Rose, "I like you, we have a lot in common" and then goes into a detailed description of how sulfuric acid can eat the face off. Hey you smooth talker! 

Rose even falls for Pinkie more when she learns that he slashed Fred to death. Carnal knowledge, I suppose. Rose is a passive flower and Pinkie for all his homicidal hunger is racked with a sour fear. When he is with Rose, his face is as grim and labored as if he's chewing on tripe. Rose is unfazed, becoming more and more enamored by Pinky's toxic glare. In one excellent scene, Pinky makes a record for Rose as a souvenir as she waits outside a booth beyond earshot. Pinky's face is rapt with emotion. Rose thinks Pinky is revealing his love as his eyes flutter. But in actuality, he is spewing his hatred for her. 

Never has young love been so rancid. You can almost smell the moldy chocolate onscreen. Or in this case the Brighton Rock of the film's title: hard sticks of candy as sharp as an ice-pick used for choking.

The film "Brighton Rock" is the most well done Highsmithic and Hitchcockian story in recent years. Even the colorful  Summer setting of a Brighton boardwalk, with its screeching ravenous tourists who play with toy pistols contain a seasonal menace. The locale, the score, and the apprehension recall the classic "Strangers on a Train". Sam Riley is even more disturbing than Robert Walker here, precisely because he is often mute and pained. Only Pinky's face shows the violence in him, a chemical agent without relief, something like Deadly Nightshade in his solid blank face.

Andy Serkis of Gollum fame, does a good turn in the role of the polyester-faced gangster Mr. Colleoni. Helen Mirren and John Hurt also make appearances, but rest assured, no one is pure of heart.

"Brighton Rock" is a quick and clever film, rich in gallow's humor and the final scene will have you thinking of Thomas Hardy laced with a shot of O. Henry for good measure.  The film makes a perfect Fall idyll for those that slink among us craving noir.

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