Friday, September 2, 2011

Brighton Rock (2010)

MPAA (unrated) CNS/USCCB (L) Roger Ebert (2 ½ Stars) Fr Dennis (3 ½ stars)

IMDb listing -
CNS/USCCB review -
Roger Ebert’s review -

Brighton Rock (screenplay written and directed by Rowan Joffe) is an update of the Graham Greene's 1938 novel by the same name.  A 1947 film version also by the same name with the screenplay having been co-written by Graham Greene had also been previously made.

The current version, sets the movie in 1964 when Brighton near the Cliffs of Dover and other coastal beach communities  in southeastern England had been rocked by nihilistic youth riots between rival gangs of Mods and Rockers, later immortalized in the British rock band, The Who’s, album/musical Quadrophenia.  To some extent, the timeless battle between good and evil, present in the hearts of the characters populating Graham Greene’s novel, now takes place in a town distracted and temporarily consumed by battles between two rival groups of young people arriving from other parts of England both of which could largely care less about questions of “good and evil” and whose divisions coalesced around simply rival Mod and Rocker visions of style.  That in itself becomes an interesting point of reflection.

Current viewers will probably come away appreciating that Graham Greene wrote at a time when the Catholic Church was certainly far more confident (and perhaps more respected) than it is today, and when it was considered possible, indeed _even probable_, that a “bad boy,” in this case in the person of petty but ruthless gangster Pinkie Brown (played by Sam Riley) could really be what he both appeared to be and even what he professed to be, that is, truly Evil.  Compare this to the contemporary Twilight series in which “bad boys” presented as vampires (traditionally _bloodsucking vampires_) are “re-imagined” as having been “misunderstood.”

Indeed, it might not be bad for any family in which their teenage daughter is dating a gang-banger or thug, to have her watch this film.

I say this because in this tale, thirty-one year old petty gangster Pinkie (the name more of a loser than a truly strong guy) begins to hit-on and eventually marries seventeen-year-old (a minor) Rose (played by Andrea Riseborough), a waitress in a Brighton coastal tea-house who otherwise would have just been at the beginning of her life.  He does so simply because he realizes that Rose _could_ have been a peripheral witness to a murder that he committed.  Early in the film while on a short break from her waitressing job and thus finding herself walking on Brighton’s pier, she had briefly talked to the man who Pinkie ended up murdering a few minutes later below the pier.  However, she talked to the victim long enough that she probably could have identified him and _perhaps_ could have added that he appeared to be rather agitated, fearful that something terrible might soon happen to him. 

Pinkie pursues his plan up to actually marrying Rose (civilly) with the sole purpose of _making sure_ that Rose _as his wife_ could by British law _never be compelled_ to testify against him.  His deceitful plan is all the more galling in that early in his pursuit of Rose, he notices by the medallion that she was wearing that she was “Roman” (Catholic) and so he plays-up his own Catholic upbringing to “disarm her” emotionally and get her to trust him. 

Ida (played by Helen Mirren), Rose’s middle-aged boss at the tea house and something of a woman of the world (who it is suggested may have even had an affair with the young hood that Pinkie had murdered) doesn’t buy any of Pinkie’s charms and tries to warn Rose to stay away from Pinkie but of course to no avail.

Rose marries Pinkie.  Since Rose is underage and couldn't do so without parental permission, Pinkie has to literally buy off Rose’s rather worthless dad, which he does in a terrible, gut-wrenching bartering session.  Where’s Rose’s Catholicism in all of this?  Well she’s in love ... and she simply can’t believe that Pinkie could be that Evil.

Indeed, Pinkie _even taunts her_ as they go to the judge to get married, telling her that they are (that _she is_) committing _a mortal sin_ by getting married before a judge.  (As all this drama plays out, there are gangs of smartly dressed Mods on motor-scooters and black-leather jacketed Rockers on motorcycles battling it out on the coastal drive in Brighton ...).   And she marries him anyway.

How would God resolve such a mess, punish the guilty and render mercy to the innocent?  That’s what the rest of the movie is about.

Parents, there is plenty of violence and harsh language throughout this film.  The consumation of Rose’s and Pinkie’s marriage is not dwelled upon, but enough is implied that one would imagine that the consumation was rather depraved.  So the film is definitely not for young kids.  But it may make a very good discussion piece for parents with older more troublesome teens where parents may have to play the role of Ida in this film to step-in and at least to plead: “Honey, this is _your life_ that you're playing with.  Don’t let someone no good for you screw it up for you.”

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