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Noir-vember 2013: Brighton Rock

Posted by martinteller on November 22, 2013

I’ve sunk so deep I carry the secrets of a sewer.

Pinkie Brown (Richard Attenborough) is an up-and-coming hood.  At 17 years old, he already has a cadre of goons under his command.  When an old rival named Fred (Alan Wheatley) shows up in town, Pinkie and his men do away with him, despite the fact that the man is part of a high-profile newspaper promotion.  Pinkie panics when Rose (Carol Marsh) surfaces as someone who could identify his man Spicer (Wylie Watson) as a suspicious figure planting a false alibi.  Pinkie pursues Rose and eventually seduces her… but he is still hounded by Ida Arnold (Hermione Baddeley), a Brighton denizen who has started to put together the pieces of Fred’s mysterious death.

I am loath to say too much about my opinions because I feel I may be dealing with too-high expectations.  I have been hearing about this British noir for several years, and usually in reverent and adoring tones.  Attenborough certainly crafts a memorable performance, he’s ice cold… one of the most cold-blooded and self-serving villains I’ve seen in noir.  Marsh’s sweet, loyal Rose is a tragic figure, one whose Catholic upbringing works both for and against her.  Really there isn’t a bad performance in the bunch, and the visuals are often quite striking.

However, it didn’t quite live up to the hype for me.  By way of a comparison to another Britnoir, it didn’t grab me nearly as much as They Made Me a Fugitive, which has a grittier tone and packs more action.  There were some stretches that felt a bit sluggish and/or predictable to me.  I would like to see this again in a different state of mind, I was perhaps too demanding on this viewing.  Nonetheless, it was by no means a bad film, with a lot of hard brutality and underworld grime to it.  The climax and coda are simply wonderful.   Rating: Very Good (81)


2 Responses to “Noir-vember 2013: Brighton Rock”

  1. Alan said

    Hi Martin, are you aware that there is a remake with Helen Mirren?

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