‘Brighton Rock’ redefines Brit gangster film genreJan. 9, 2012
By G. Michael Dobbs
Two good films are featured in this week’s DVD review column.
The British gangster film has been defined by director Guy Ritchie in the last few years with movies such as “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” and “Snatch,” but this adaptation of Graham Greene’s 1938 novel is more old school.
You won’t find flashy editing or grimly humorous characters in “Brighton Rock.” This film owes more to the British social dramas of the 1960s and American film noir.
At its heart, the film is about whether or not the central character of Pinkie, an ambitious thug willing to ignite a gang war in the English resort community of Brighton, is beyond redemption.
Many classic gangster films are about the rise and fall of a powerful criminal, such as “Little Cesar,” “Public Enemy” or either version of “Scarface.” This film follows that format to a certain degree, but Pinkie never makes it to the heights of the title characters in those films.
Pinkie is the junior member of a threadbare gang who kills, instead of scares, a rival gang member. His situation is complicated by the fact there is a material witness to the crime, Rose, a very innocent waitress working in a restaurant on the Brighton pier. He knows that he has to keep her quiet somehow and decides to woo her.
Ida, Rose’s boss, knew the murdered man and she starts to realize who Pinkie is and that Rose plays a role in the affair.
As events and the rival gang boss start to close in on him, the question is whether or not Pinkie sees Rose’s love as his redemption or if he plans to just kill her.
This is the first feature film for director and writer Rowan Joffe and it’s an auspicious start. Although it is a period film, it’s not set in 1938, but moved to 1964 when the clash between British youth groups were at their height.
Sam Riley gives an award-worthy performance as Pinkie, a kid who is trying to prove himself, while Helen Mirren shines as Ida. Andrea Riseborough strikes the right notes as Rose.
If film noir and crime films are of interest to you, check out “Brighton Rock.”
Don’t be Afraid of the Dark
I think the best horror films are those that strip any adult logic from you and return you to a child-like state in which simple noises and shadows can cause gooseflesh, much less ideas and images.
This film does pretty well in making its audiences remember what it was to be a kid and scared of things that logic and common sense should discount.
It does so without a big serving of gore but with a fairly sympathetic central character and a really good monster or monsters.
Alex (Guy Pearce) is an architect who has moved into his new project renovating the home long closed that once belonged to a distinguished artist. All is going well until his daughter, Sally, shows up. It seems her mom has other priorities and has dumped her on her ex.
The only person who welcomes Sally’s arrival is Kim (Katie Holmes), Alex’s girlfriend and designer. Sally (Bailee Madison) rejects her attention and retreats to her room where she hears voices telling her things she wants to hear.
Although there is a sizable logic problem that happens during a key section of the film, first time feature film director Troy Nixey did an admirable job with a script by Guillermo del Toro and Matthew Robbins, which is based on the original film of the same name made for television in 1973.
For horror fans who like their films moist with blood, this film might be weak tea, but for those of us who like a little more subtlety, “Don’t be Afraid of the Dark” is quite good.