Brighton Rock (UK - BD RB)
Marcus heads back to the beach for this remake of Brighton Rock on Blu-ray...
After watching his father figure and gang leader get stabbed, Pinkie Brown (Sam Riley) takes it upon on himself to get revenge. This leads to Pinkie chasing down and beating his friend’s murderer to death under the Brighton pier and putting an end to it.
However when Pinkie finds out that there's photographic proof of his gang and their victim being together on the day of the killing, he befriends local waitress Rose (Andrea Riseborough) who has the slip to pick the picture up from the shop on the pier. Keeping a close eye on her and making her believe they’ve fallen in love, Pinkie think he's got the situation under control but when her boss, Ida (Helen Mirren) starts seeing the bigger picture about Pinkie and his recent murderous ways, Rose’s safety is put in jeopardy.
I watched and reviewed the 1947 Richard Attenborough Brighton Rock a few months back so sitting down to view a remake so soon after seeing the original was quite a fun experience, especially as it sticks so close to the pacing of the original. The remake’s choices for changes were a whole lot more noticeable because it was so fresh in my mind.
Generally speaking this remake of Brighton Rock isn’t out to reinvent the wheel but with a 1964 setting we get a Mods vs. Rockers backdrop and in Helen Mirren we get Ida the business woman busybody instead of Ida the loud mouthed busybody in the pub. Really they are the biggest changes and despite the stronger language and the slightly grislier visuals this is a remake that is out to reintroduce the story to modern audience as opposed to trying to improve what was already solid.
So how does the cast rack up? Sam Riley had big shoes to fill replacing Attenborough’s depiction of Pinkie. Attenborough felt like a loose cannon in his performance and someone that would be uncomfortable to be around and Riley totally captures that. His fixed stare is as threatening, his aggression boiling under the surface is just about bang on and the sleazier side of his character when he screws over Spicer for his own ends is all pretty much like for like with the original (though it has to be said the killing of Spicer is a whole lot darker). So really this central performance is bang on.
However, the odd choice is the Mod stuff, which the marketing for this movie seems to be milking it for all its worth. Pinkie isn’t a mod in this movie at all but he steals a Mod’s scooter and for some unknown reason also decides to buy (or already owns) the mod uniform long green jacket to complete the look. There's a brief explanation on the commentary that a deleted scene shows how Pinkie wants to disappear into the crowd after Spicer's assassination but it's never explained in the final cut of the movie. Really the Pinkie as a Mod element seemed shoe-horned in and didn’t really make a whole lot of sense, especially when we get an extended Mod army on their scooters scene that was great for a celebration of the era but not all that connected to the unfolding story and never goes anywhere beyond a couple of scenes. It’s an odd one really. It’s almost as if giving pinkie these iconic visuals will pull in another crowd of viewers. Maybe they were aiming to get the mantle of “The Mod Scarface” or something? Either way it really hasn't got anything to do with the story.
So the other big player here is of course Helen Mirren as Ida. She was okay. I wasn’t exactly warmed to her character or anything but she was a damn sight less annoying than Ida in the original and her select scenes with John Hurt were sort of delightful, though usually not at all part of the bigger story, especially their final scene where they discuss getting a room together. Nothing at all is made better for the story as such but seeing these two actors play together is undeniable fun. Of course the other element they had to get right was Rose and Andrea Riseborough did a good job. Rose is sort of a thankless role to play because she has to play the doormat and no one in their right mind would ever respond to these situations like this character does. Because of that, Rose has to be played with a vulnerability you want to see protected and Riseborough does a solid job, though it has to be said her being that in love with Pinkie, despite his outbursts and general demeanour makes her the most psychotic character in the film for me.
I had the luxury of watching both the DVD and Blu-ray versions of this release and I have to say the Blu-ray is almost like watching another movie altogether. The DVD was bland, soft and positively hazy in places, but the HD transfer is a whole different story. Black levels are so much stronger and from the opening sequence alone the film looks packed with more style as shadows and lighting work a whole lot better.
The colour palette has a strong presence of the colour blue in its various degrees. Obviously there’s the sea and the pier’s decor but beyond that there’s a whole lot. Clothing, lighting in many of the scenes creates a bluish haze, greased hair has that blue tint and Rose’s eyes have some pop to them from time to time too.
As we get into brighter scenes, texture becomes much more apparent and some of the attention to detail in the sets leaps of the screen and makes the whole world of Brighton Rock seem a lot richer. Of course, going for the authentic feel, there’s still a slight softness to some scenes and grain has a presence from time to time but if anything this captures a more realistic look. Combined with the very natural skin tones and hazy English summer cloud in the sky, the movie strikes a fine balance between modern filmmaking and celebrating the era it’s set in.
The Master Audio track here is way more striking than the DVD’s Dolby Digital track. The score holds a hell of a presence on the HD presentation and the power of the track is much more apparent. The bassy ocean segways were good on the DVD but they hammer home on the Blu-ray and the Mod vs. Rockers fight on the beach feels a lot more layered and crisp.
Show off moments in regards to directional audio comes when Ida visits Rose and Rose’s father hammers on his door calling for Rose. I’d watched the scene twice and it’s still intimidating with its overbearing presence. The beach battle scenes and the “We are, we are, we are the mods” chants fill the room across all the speakers and when Pinkie starts getting sliced the score and bass levels really soar. Honestly the more I compare the two presentations the more the DVD seems like it's not even trying.
The disc kicks off with trailers for Unknown, Animal Kingdom, Source Code and a Snickers advert.
The audio commentary with director Rowan Joffe and editor Joe Walker introduces the track by aiming to entertain and educate and get off to a good start giving insight into the structure of the movie and their affection for the original, as well as the book and the changes/updates they’ve introduced here. There’s a lot of talk about the feeling of the film and the moments that build to something and with the track highlighting these and adding a bit more weight to the scenes. The track remains constant and doesn’t run out of stream so overall it’s not a bad track.
The interviews are broken down into ‘Interviews’ and ‘Extended Interviews’. Sam Joffe (Extended Interview SD 25:43) gives a brief overview of his career and how he found himself doing this remake. The whole thing is intercut with clips from the film and goes into the characters and their development. The Sam Riley extended interview (SD 10:38) really hypes up the screenplay and goes into all the elements that drew him to the role. Lastly in the extended section is Andrea Riseborough (SD 12:25) who looks totally different outside of her dowdy looks in the film and goes into detail about how she found the character.
The shorter interviews are from a press junket and gets a little repetitive. Rowan Joffe (SD 10:45) Riley & Riseborough (SD 11:44) and then there’s the ‘Boulting’s Brighton Rock with Rowan Joffe’ (20:10) which is the Q&A from the original’s Blu-ray release.
There are six deleted scenes, and ‘Anatomy of a Scene’ SD 11:30) which looks closer at the scene where Pinkie makes Rose’s record on the pier. This has Joffe, Riley and Riseborough talking up its importance in the movie.
'Mod or Rocker' (SD 02:07) is a short and sweet look at which side the cast and crew would choose and the short film/play of ‘Kenneth Hume’s Mods and Rockers’ (SD 24:44) is an un-prettied up presentation (seriously it looks terrible) from 1964 depicting the story of the Mods and Rockers through dance. Seriously, odd is not a strong enough word.
'Alternative Opening Sequence Storyboard' (HD 11:30) is narrated by Joffe and he explains how he originally envisioned holiday makers making their way to Brighton on a Hymek train and how the original stabbing shown in the opening would be happening in amongst the holiday crowd.
Lastly the stills gallery features a nice selection of the sets and the attention to detail as well the (seriously lacking) DVD copy in the double play edition.
Brighton Rock is a worthy remake to its predecessor and with a story this universal I doubt it will be the last time we ever see a remake. I wouldn’t say it was the most exciting of crime dramas and honestly elements felt more like a TV drama as opposed to a big screen affair but I have to say that I enjoyed this take on the story and the fleshing out of elements really added a lot.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 20th June 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, LPCM 2.0 Stereo English
Subtitles: English HOH
Extras: Commentary, Interviews, Still Gallery, Featurette, Deleted scnes, 1964 short film Mods and Rockers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Rowan Joffe
Cast: Sam Riley, Andrea Riseborough, Helen Mirren
Genre: Crime and Drama
Length: 106 minutes
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