Recca’s note: Sorry for the paucity of reviews and posts lately. I’ve been in law school, which basically means no time for anything, especially not watching films. I’ve also just been lazy. When I’m exhausted, I can only stomach light comedic television nowadays. That being said, I just got Hulu Plus last year (Netflix drove me away) and they have a large selection of Criterion films. So expect something periodically in the future. I’ve been on a bit of documentary kick lately, though, and I highly recommend The Eyes of Tammy Faye. Anyhow, I can’t say no to a mod movie review (the specialty of this blog), and when the mod remake of Brighton Rock presented itself on BBC iPlayer the other day, I had to watch it. So on to the review!
Brighton Rock (2010, UK) dir. Rowan Joffe
I saw the original Brighton Rock (1947) a few years ago on film and fell in love with it. When I heard that there was a remake in the works both based more on the novel AND set in mod-infested 1964 Brighton, I squealed fangirl squeals of delight. I picked up the Brighton Rock novel by Graham Greene right away and while reading it, imagined how the remake would transfer the plot into the mod era.
So, naturally, I was quite excited to see this film. Overall, it’s a solid watch, though it is not without its issues. I am inevitably going to make a few comparisons with the original film which, though excellent, is also not without its issues, so please bear with me in that regard. I would highly recommend viewing both (in any order) as well as reading the novel (if you’re into crime novels with a twist of Catholic subtext).
The plot concerns a young gang leader named Pinkie, who struggles against an established mob run by Corleone (played brilliantly in this adaptation by Andy Serkis of Gollum fame). When Fred Hale gets caught between the two gangs, Pinkie has to murder him. A young waitress named Rose becomes the only remote witness to Fred Hale’s “disappearance” and Pinkie starts up a relationship with her to keep her quiet. Both of them are Catholics, which figures into the plot extensively. In the meantime, busybody good-time girl Ida (who in this adaptation also runs the cafe where Rose works and is played by the great Helen Mirren) becomes interested in the mystery and will stop at nothing to make sure Pinkie is caught.
The most interesting part of the story, in my opinion, is the relationship between Pinkie and Rose. This part of the story is what the 2010 adaptation excels at portraying. Rose is a little bit overacted in the 1947 version and I tended to pity her less in that adaptation. Rose is far more dimensional in the new film.
The new film sticks to the novel in some ways more than the 1947 film, but it’s a little superficial. Characters are condensed (Ida and the cafe owner) and changed, along with the time period. While this largely works, I found Ida to be the weakest character in the new film, while she was far more interesting in the 1947 version and in the novel. Helen Mirren’s Ida is too serious and comes off as pretty boring overall. The shorter length of the film may be to blame, but she barely gets involved and the tension surrounding her investigations has little time to develop. Kudos to the new film for expounding on the Brighton Rock candy metaphor, a central feature of the novel’s plot.
The cinematography in the 1947 film is far more interesting and black-and-white lends itself to the gangster film noir atmosphere of the plot a bit better. The 2010 film is well shot, but it can never beat the fantastic murder scenes in the original. Interestingly enough, the ending of this film is shot-for-shot an homage to the 1947 version. Color does help capture the mod world quite well, though, and I loved the use of colors in Rose’s clothing throughout the film.
I really appreciated that this film didn’t become complete mod-sploitation. That being said, a few of the “mod moments” felt a little bit forced, such as when Rose goes shopping. The scene where Pinkie dresses in the full mod kit – fishhooked parka sleeves included – is pure mod porn. These scenes didn’t detract from the film as a whole, though (and I rather enjoyed most of them, being a mod myself). These moments fit the plot – Pinkie seems to be a bit of a mod, and he steals a scooter and uses a mod disguise to escape into the crowd. However, mods are notoriously picky and even I, not hardcore by any means, found a few issues. Some of the men had more “freakbeat era” long haircuts which you probably wouldn’t see in 1964, and a few of the girls had more mid-60s Carnaby-type dresses as well. This is ‘pop culture’ mod, but it doesn’t fit the time period. I also spotted some older people as extras in the scooter parade scene, which is also completely inconsistent with the era (although I bet those old-timers were glad to be in the scene…it probably reminded them of their youth). On a positive note, the Brighton mod riots add a fascinating new dimension to the film’s thematic focus on the conflict between young and old (Pinkie vs. Corleone, Rose vs. Ida, mod rebels vs. Brighton businesses).
I appreciate the risks taken in this adaptation, and unlike most adaptations of great films, I enjoyed it and could easily re-watch it. Again, though, while Rose came across better in this film, I miss the Pinkie and Ida in the ’47 film, and the murder scenes that shone in the original can’t be matched. I find myself in the odd position of recommending both films. They are both fun to watch and look great. I especially recommend the new film for fellow mods (let’s face it, this is the closest thing to another ‘Quadrophenia’ that we’re going to get in this decade). I hope the film sparks another revival (we need one!)
(chants) We are the mods, we are the mods, we are, we are, we are the mods…..
Sorry, I got carried away there. Check out both films….and/or read the novel!
Rating (2010 film): 7/10