9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
A fine, cold-blooded movie with Richard Attenborough by way of Graham Greene,
This review is from: Brighton Rock [DVD]  (DVD)
We make our own sordid hell and then we live in it, and the innocents among us deserve what they get because they can't tell the difference. Not exactly Graham Greene with his Catholic conflicts, but this excellent film written by Greene (and Terence Rattigan) from Greene's novel certainly sets up the issues. Brighton Rock is an excellent movie, scarcely dated, and features one of Richard Attenborough's most effective performances. His Pinkie Brown will wipe away all those avuncular grandfathers and Santas he's been playing the last few years.
Pinkie leads a small criminal gang in Brighton in the late Thirties. The gang's former leader was betrayed by a man named Fred Hale. When Hale is spotted in the guise of newspaper reporter Kolley Kibber passing out coupons near the Brighton pier in a promotion stunt for the paper, Hale's health is about to fail. Pinkie and the gang face Hale in a pub, then follow him through the streets of Brighton waiting for an opportunity to kill him. On the Brighton pier Hale meets Ida Arnold, a blowzy, cheery woman he encountered in the pub, and pleads with her to stay with him. She agrees, but then must leave him for a moment to retrieve a handkerchief. Frightened out of his wits, he gets on a tunnel of frights ride...and at the last moment Pinkie slips into the seat next to him. Hale is dead before the ride ends. Now Pinkie realizes there are a couple of loose ends. He kills one and marries the other, an innocent young waitress named Rose who saw more than she should have. A wife, after all, can't testify against her husband. Before long, Pinkie is plotting a double suicide for himself and Rose. Naturally, she'll go first. I'm not giving anything away, but things at last don't turn out Pinkie's way.
Did I mention? Pinkie is a puritanical sociopath. He doesn't smoke, doesn't drink and prefers to use a straight razor. He's 17. His gang has only three other members, all older. He dominates them because he knows what he wants, he's calm and he doesn't hesitate to take action. He can become violent, but with all the emotion of a snake. He marries his young waitress to get an alibi. While she naively loves him with all her heart, he can barely keep from showing his impatience and revulsion for her. On the Brighton pier together she sees a recording kiosk where people can make a record of their voices. Make a recording for me, she begs Pinkie, so I'll always have something that tells me how you feel. While Rose, outside the booth and unable to hear, gazes at him through the glass, Pinkie speaks into the mike. "You wanted a recording of my voice, well here it is. What you want me to say is, 'I love you'. Well I don't. I hate you, you little slut... " They don't have a gramophone so Pinkie knows she can't play the record. Pinkie wants security and power. He sees both slipping away as stronger competition from another gang moves in, as his own gang starts to crumble and as the relentless Ida Howard dogs his steps, pulling the police behind her. It all comes together in the rain late at night on the pier.
Attenborough was 24 when he played Pinkie. It was his breakthrough performance, and he's so good it's a wonder he wasn't typecast. Pinkie's age is not made much of; we learn it only when we learn he is underage, as is Rose, and must utilize a corrupt, aged lawyer to arrange the marriage ceremony. The off-hand way we realize how young Pinkie is makes his youth and his cold behavior even more disturbing. Hermione Baddeley as Ida, loud, vulgar and loving a drink and a good time, and William Hartnell as Dallow, the senior member of Pinkie's gang and a hard man with a certain degree of loyalty, are excellent. One of the major stars is Brighton, itself, and how it has been photographed. There's the pier and the rides and the beach chairs, of course, but this Brighton also has grubby and depressing boarding houses, loud pubs and narrow, dark streets and alleys. The location photography brings out all the grit and desperation.