Many of Graham Greene's written works have found their way onto the big screen over the years but despite being a big fan of cinema (he worked as a film critic for several years), he only wrote a handful of the associated screenplays himself. Brighton Rock is one of the few films that Greene did help to convert and it is perhaps no coincidence that even 55 years on, it stands out as one of the finest adaptations of his work.
A youthful Richard Attenborough stars as Pinkie Brown, a psychotic teenage gangster, who following the death of his mentor Kite has suddenly found himself in charge of one Brighton's biggest mobs. Driven by anger and desperate for revenge, Pinkie begins an ill-advised hunt for the Fred Hale, a journalist who exposed facts about Kite which inadvertently led to his murder. After a dramatic chase around the Brighton seafront, Pinkie gets his man but although there are no direct witnesses, it is far from the perfect murder. The police may be happy to attribute Hale's death to natural causes but Ida Arnold (Hermione Baddeley, who for the record has the most grating laugh in film history) has other ideas. She saw Fred moments prior to his death and suspects foul play.
Pinkie soon learns that a dim-witted waitress by the name of Rose (Carol Marsh) holds the key to his freedom and in order to keep her quiet, he begins to romance her. But as time progresses, and Arnold's private investigations begin to get too close for comfort, Pinkie becomes increasingly unable to relax. Even his marriage to Rose does little to quash his fears that she will one day incriminate him, and as his mob crumbles around him, Pinkie begins to dig an even deeper hole for himself.
The film moves at an astonishing pace for its age, and while the screenplay itself may not seem outstanding to the 2002 viewer, it does undoubtedly provide the actors with a solid base on which to work. Fittingly, an able cast all manage to turn in strong performances but it is Richard Attenborough as the deranged Pinkie who undoubtedly steals the show. A hearty mix of paranoia, violence and pure, unadulterated evil, this film is never more exciting than when Attenborough's Pinkie graces the screen. Without such an intriguing central character Brighton Rock would be little more than a bog-standard gangster flick - as it stands, it is pretty much a genre classic. 7/10
Reviewed By David Coleman
14th of September 2002