Director Rowan Joffe and actress Andrea Riseborough break out in moody BRIGHTON ROCK
An acclaimed 1938 crime novel and its 1947 big screen adaptation is the source material for this summer's best breakouts with Rowan Joffe, writer of The American and 28 Weeks Later, making his feature directing debut and newcomers Sam Riley and Andrea Riseborough playing tragic lovers in a remake of Graham Greene's Brighton Rock.
Joffe reboots the story to Brighton, England 1964 with the violent clashes between the scooter-riding Mods and the Rockers in their heavy black leather jackets providing a colorful backdrop to the moody storytelling and tragic love story.
Pinkie Brown (Sam Riley) is a young thug in trouble for killing a rival gangster and he suspects a pretty tearoom waitress named Rose (Andrea Riseborough) knows about the crime. Pinkie seeks out Rose in order to protect his own selfish interests but they quickly develop an odd bond. Rose sees the good in Pinkie - even if no one else does - and she's convinced she can make him a better person.
In terms of visual flash, the highlight of Brighton Rock is cameraman John Mathieson's overhead shots of countless scooters streaming past Brighton Pier as the Mods and Rockets get ready to rumble. It's a stunning scene that hints at Joffe's filmmaking skills after writing screenplays and directing television.
Still, Brighton Rock is about its storytelling and Joffe's strong adaptation of Greene's novel with its unique combination of crime pulp and Catholic morality intact.
Greene remains famous for his screenplay The Third Man, co-written with director Carol Reed, and for the recent film adaptations of his books The End of the Affair and The Quiet American.
John Boulting's 1947 adaptation of Brighton Rock starring Richard Attenborough and Hermione Baddeley has its share of admirers but Joffe makes a good remake that stands on its own qualities.
Joffe's Brighton Rock is also a movie about debuts with leads Riley and Riseborough making an impressive splash.
Riley, last seen as doomed Joy Division singer/songwriter Ian Curtis in Control, makes powerful use of his raspy voice and deep-set eyes.
Riley is believably threatening as he menaces Rose with acid and then shrugs it off as a joke.
"I wouldn't want a friend with a face burned off, would I?" Pinkie hisses at his would-be girlfriend.
Riley sneers and stares with ferocity. He's a cold man, worlds apart from the standard movie love interest.
Riseborough flashes an aching heart beneath her stringy brown hair and glasses. She brings depth to Rose's mousy behavior and a heartfelt belief that she only can make difference in a young thug's life.
Riseborough takes full advantage of Joffe's writing and pushes Rose above the suffering girlfriend stereotype and into a character rich, complex and hopeful.
Helen Mirren provides strong support as Rose's boss who warns her about Pinkie.
The same can be said for Brighton Pier, which Joffe and production designer James Merifield bring alive in all its '60s glory.
Of course Joffe makes sinister use of Brighton Pier in the film's key moments of suspense as its lights turn off and its shops and restaurants go dark.
Yet, beyond Brighton Rock's film noir style and sinister storytelling, Joffe keeps bringing us back to Rose and her unconditional sense of hope.
Its brief, metaphorical ending means everything in Brighton Rock and Joffe keeps the spotlight solely on Rose. After so much heartache, he understands the importance of exiting with compassion.
Distributor: IFC Films
Director: Rowan Joffe
Scriptwriter: Rowan Joffe, from the novel by Graham Greene
Cinematographer: John Mathieson
Cast: Sam Riley, Andrea Riseborough, John Hurt, Helen Mirren Production Designer: James Merifield
Composer: Martin Phipps
Editor: Joe Walker
Running Time: 111 minutes
Producers: Kudos Films, BBC Films, Optimum Releasing