Tuesday, 8 February 2011
Another trip to London provided the opportunity to return to the Ritzy in Brixton to view this gritty and hard film. A retelling of Graham Greene's novel rather than a remake of the 1947 film with a few interpretative twists of its own. Set in the early 1960's, the film's locations, costume and feel are very authentic all of which struck a deep resonance with my childhood.
As a film, the violence of petty and organised crime in Brighton is stereotyped to the point of ridicule - even the cigar smoking Colleoni played by Andy Sirkis is a character more at home in 1930's Chicago or the Soprano's Bada Bing. Rose is never wholly convincing either as the naive girl or emerging mobster wife besotted with Pinkie. John Hurt also (unusually) delivers a stale performance in a role reminiscent of the Chancellor in V for Vendetta. In terms of performances it the menacing Pinkie (Sam Riley) and in particular the resolute Ida played by Helen Mirren who carry the film.
There is a recurring theme of Roman Catholic faith that threads its way through the story. Pinkie believes, but only in hell. Rose believes and we see here strikingly in a church from above a cruciform Christ suspended from the ceiling. Pinkie offers her the choice of freedom or committing a mortal sin meaning she could never go to Church again. She chooses Pinkie and sin.
The script is at times clunky and plot devices are sometimes too contrived, usually in relation to timing. The running battles between mods and rockers add nothing to the organised crime theme that underpins Pinkie's world. There is a high level of deceit and lying necessitated by the plot which made this an uncomfortable watch for me. The moral bankruptcy of the criminal underworld is revealed in all its glory - even to the point of there being no honour amongst thieves! There is constant violence that is consistent with gang-land crime but it is thankfully restrained and demands little in the technicolour department.
This film has too many short-comings for it to be great. Unfortunately it will always live in the shadow of its illustrious predecessor - which will remain a hard act to follow.
I'll give it 6/10.