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Originally published Thursday, September 29, 2011 at 3:03 PM

Movie review

A stylish remake of 'Brighton Rock'

A review of "Brighton Rock," a thriller based on a Graham Greene novel that has been filmed before. Sam Riley, Andrea Riseborough and Helen Mirren star.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 3 stars

'Brighton Rock,' with Sam Riley, Andrea Riseborough, Helen Mirren, John Hurt, Phil Davis. Written and directed by Rowan Joffe, based on the novel by Graham Greene. 111 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences (contains violence). Seven Gables.

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Graham Greene's chilling 1938 novel "Brighton Rock" features an unspeakably amoral teenage villain, a shockingly innocent girl with whom he becomes entangled, and a worldly middle-aged woman who tries to insert herself between them and save the girl from her own naiveté. It's been made into a film once before, in 1947, with Richard Attenborough as the vicious Pinkie. (The film was released in the U.S. as "Young Scarface.") Now it's back on screen, with first-time writer/director Rowan Joffe moving the action to 1964, a time of youth rebellion even in the quaint seaside town of Brighton. "Suddenly, the young own the town," notes a character.

As remakes go, this "Brighton Rock" is probably unnecessary, but it's a well- acted, stylishly filmed thriller and a good story well told. Pinkie (Sam Riley) is desperate to conceal his link to a murder, which means he must seduce innocent waitress Rose (Andrea Riseborough), who's unwittingly stumbled on evidence linking him to the crime. He pretends, not too convincingly, that he wants to marry her (wives can't testify against husbands); Rose, whose life has been a series of pallid disappointments, sees what she wants to see in his scarred face and agrees. Watching warily is Ida (Helen Mirren, once again remarkably conveying the whole of a complex character in just a few scenes), who knows where this is headed, and sees something of her own lost youth in the girl.

It's a devastating story, with its most poignant details straight out of Greene's novel: the heartbreaking bargaining session between Pinkie and Rose's father (who essentially sells her off, without a backward glance), the way Rose gazes lovingly at Pinkie as he records his voice for her at a booth on the pier. (She can't hear him and thinks her new husband's speaking of love; he's actually spewing venom.) She clutches the record later, like it's something she needs to help her breathe, still not knowing that this man looks at her and sees nothing — that he sees the world as a place without hope or joy. Early in the film, Pinkie and Rose have one of their few calm conversations, on a bench looking at the sea. He speaks of hell; she reminds him that there's a heaven, too. Something fleeting and bitter crosses his face, as he looks away. "Maybe," he says, without conviction.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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