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'Brighton Rock' is old-school with fresh charm

A noir classic is remade with a mix of new stars and cherished veterans.

August 26, 2011|By Katherine Tulich
  • Sam Riley as Pinkie and Andrea Riseborough as Rose in the new British thriller, "Brighton Rock." (Photo courtesy of IFC Films)
Sam Riley as Pinkie and Andrea Riseborough as Rose in the…

Graham Greene created a chilling portrait of a young gangster Pinkie Brown in his novel, “Brighton Rock.” He also co wrote the landmark 1947 noir British film that starred a young Richard Attenborough as the calculating and sadistic Brown. Remaking such an iconic story is no easy task, but first-time director Roland Joffe has gathered a stellar cast of new stars and veteran British thespians like John Hurt and Helen Mirren and gives the story a fresh twist to make this new cinema version equally compelling.

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FOR THE RECORD: This story has been updated to reflect a photo caption change.

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Set in the faded seaside town of Brighton (the title refers to its local brand of hard candy) with its rocky shoreline, grimy pubs, prim tea houses and an imposing pier where day trippers crowd its amusement side shows, Joffe has wisely updated the original setting from post World War II to 1964. It’s a time when Britain’s youth are flexing their new-found muscle, and mods and rockers on scooters and motorcycles scarily gather violent flash mobs (without the benefit of social media), terrorizing residents and smashing store fronts.

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Into this setting of disaffected youth comes the troubled Pinkie (played with dark relish by up-and-coming British actor Sam Riley). He is part of a small-time gang that hustles local store owners for so called “protection” money. They wear smart suits and instead of guns, they carry flick knives and bottles of acid. When the leader of the gang, and father figure to Pinkie, is murdered by a rival, the young thug will stop at nothing to seek revenge and consolidate his power.

Pinkie has no respect for any kind of old-time gang etiquette, even challenging the authority of the local mob chief (played with flare by Andy Serkis, current “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” star).

His looming turf war is nearly derailed by a local waitress Rose (Andrea Riseborough), who unwittingly finds herself in the center of a pier-side rumble and in an unfortunate twist of fate, is snapped alongside Pinkie’s accomplice by a seaside photographer, who gives her the ticket to the photo. Pinkie decides his only choice is to seduce the naive young girl and win her trust.

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