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Movie review: Brighton Rock

October 27, 2011
Scooters in 'Brighton Rock'

This is pretty much all the scooter action in 'Brighton Rock' (IFC Films)

Let’s cut to the chase: Brighton Rock is NOT a scooter movie, okay? If you’re expecting something like Quadrophenia or even Larry Crowne, you will be disappointed.

Brighton Rock (which is a type of candy that in this case makes an effective murder weapon) is really about Pinky, a teenage sociopath who wants more than anything to be the baddest mobster in Brighton.

The movie does take place in 1964 during the time of the Mods vs. Rockers riots, but this is to lend historical context (and update Graham Greene’s classic late-1930s crime novel). Yes, there are groups of scooters running around. Yes, Pinky gets his Jimmy on, donning a Mod suit and a military-issue parka, and early in the movie he steals a modded-out Lambretta (which starts on the first kick..!) in order to get away from a bunch of thugs.

Pinky (Sam Riley) kills an enforcer from a rival gang to exact revenge for the murder of his mentor, but a photograph that could implicate him is in the possession of Rose (Andrea Riseborough), an impossibly innocent naif who works as a waitress in a tea shop.

Pinky seduces Rose, and even marries her in hopes of keeping her from testifying against him. Rose falls slavishly in love with Pinky, in spite of how shabbily he treats her: in a key scene, we see her outside the window of a pierside recording booth getting all goo-goo eyed as Pinky goes on and on about how he loathes her, which of course, she can’t hear.

Pinky and Rose

Pinky (Sam Riley) and Rose (Andrea Riseborough) on the beach in Brighton (IFC Films)

A great deal of the novel’s subtext and backstory has been left out of the screenplay, so one is asked to suspend a great deal of disbelief about this story. Pinky is the kind of guy who pulls legs off spiders just for the heck of it, so why doesn’t he just kill Rose? And why is Rose so slavishly devoted to someone who even the most forgiving of souls should see is a ticking time bomb?

In its favor, Brighton Rock is surely the most noirish of film noir. Its cinematography and production design turn the cartoonish seaside resort town of Rick Steves’ travelogues into a brooding, rundown dystopia worthy of 1984, a hellhole populated by people who to a man and woman look like walking corpses.

But really, it’s very difficult to care about Pinky and Rose, and you may well find yourself going ewwwww at the way the movie ends.

In my own case, no matter; it was a chance to experience the Pickford Film Center‘s new facility on Bay Street in downtown Bellingham. There are two auditoriums with stadium seating (with cupholders), and a snack bar with tables, where you can enjoy coffee, beer and wine (sorry, no alcohol while watching the movie) along with the usual movie-theater treats. Get there early and you can read Daily Variety. Favicon

  1. October 27, 2011 3:20 am

    Nicely written review Orin. I won’t see the movie because after reading your review I now know it’s not for me. But I am going to read your review a few more times. What a gem! Succinct; colourful; paints a picture so vivid I could literally see the scenes you describe playing on the screen in my mind; nicely paced; with a rhythm like a vintage scooter winding through the dark back-alleys of a sea-side resort. Honestly, if you can pull these out of the hat consistently I could see you as a nationally syndicated reviewer. Bravo!

  2. October 27, 2011 11:57 am

    David, I’m blushing!

    Thanks for your kind words. A good review ultimately exists to help the reader decide whether the thing being reviewed is worth the reader’s time and money. I’m glad I could help in that way.

    As for national syndication, I would love that! But these are tough times for writers. In 1996 I was actually able to bring in enough money writing about cars to pay the rent and other bills, but no such luck these days… the publications I wrote for are long since gone.

    And these days, people expect content for free. For now, I will continue plugging away at this here blog…

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