An adaptation of Graham Greene's classic novel about a small-town hood who marries a waitress who witnessed him murdering a rival thug in order to keep her quiet. As his gang begins to doubt his abilities, the man becomes more desperate and violent. Written by
As a Brighton resident, I had to see this, but also probably spent more time looking at the locations (and more critically) than a normal viewer. On the plus side, there is excellent cinematography, and the film creates an atmospheric mid 60's version of Brighton that might be convincing to anyone too young to remember that time, but which contained too many jarring anachronisms for me. For example Rose lives in a tower block, which could have existed in 1964, and would have still been soulless and depressing, but would also have been practically brand spanking new, not run down and shabby with 20 years of neglect. This highlights another failing of the film, the clichéd exaggerated unrelenting squalor that all the criminals live in, which again is untrue to the period, twitching net curtains and keeping up (often threadbare) appearances was how things worked then, in working class neighbourhoods especially. You could create an oppressive atmosphere from these real elements (and the culture clash of the pre and post war worlds) perhaps more easily than from this invented total squalor.
So if the world the film creates is a Hollywood version of 1960's Brighton, do the characters engage you? Well I loved Helen Mirren and John Hurt, they brought a touch of class whenever they appeared, and Phil Davis is another very fine actor who is always watchable. Sadly the two main characters don't quite pull it off, and if I have to lay the blame it is chiefly with Sam Riley's Pinkie. If he could have alternated his cold unsmiling thuggishness with some charm, shown Rose a little tenderness some vulnerability even, that would have made her falling for him, and her naive notion that she could save him more convincing, and maybe made his cruelty and occasional physical violence toward her more shocking. Andrea Riseborough as Rose gives a fair performance, given that she does not have much to work with.
I'm sorry if this review makes the film sound worse than it is, because truth be told despite its failings it is consistently watchable, and still managed to engage me. An interesting failure.
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