Brighton mods and rockers in remake of classic film

Helen Mirren as Ida and John Hurt as Phil Corkery in Brighton Rock
Helen Mirren as Ida and John Hurt as Phil Corkery in Brighton Rock

IT is a daunting task to remake a fondly-remembered film of a classic modern novel, especially for your first film.

Writer-director Rowan Joffe has chosen to divert some of the comparisons by moving the time frame of Brighton Rock (Cert 15) from Graham Greene’s late 1930s to 1964.

Nicole Kidman as Becca  in RABBIT HOLE.

Nicole Kidman as Becca in RABBIT HOLE.

This undoubtedly gives a dramatic backcloth to the story with Mods and Rockers running riot on the beach and conveys of Vespas roaring along the front, while crucially the death penalty is still in force.

Sam Riley (Ian Curtis in Control) is the Brylcreemed anti-hero, Pinkie, the psychopathic member of a gang of small-time crooks who courts naïve waitress Rose, the accidental witness to a killing. A tortured Catholic, he marries her in the belief that a wife can’t testify against her husband.

Andrea Risborough excellently conveys a girl who gradually acquires a sense of womanly self-possession and there are solid turns from Phil Davis as the weasly gang leader Spicer, Helen Mirren as Ida, Pinkie’s bete noir, and John Hurt as blazered bookmaker Phil Corkery.

The sense of a seedy seaside town is wonderfully evoked by cinematographer John Mathieson and designer James Merifield.

But the pillar of Greene’s novel, the Catholic guilt, seems anachronistic in a teenager in the Sixties, along with Cockney razor-gangs.

The central problem, though, is the same as in the original. Pinkie is such an evil toerag it’s very hard to engage with his angst or see why Rose remains so infatuated.

A Rocky-style tale of triumph against the odds in the boxing ring, The Fighter (Cert 15) is based on the real-life story of ‘Irish’ Mickey Ward who fought his way from the blue-collar mean streets of Lowell, Massachusetts, to land a world title in London in the mid-1990s.

All the way he is both helped and hindered by his ex-boxer crack addict half brother, Dick Eklund, and the domineering family matriarch and boxing manager, not to mention other female members of his vast family.

That makes the film, directed by David O Russell, so much more than just a boxing film.

Mark Wahlberg quietly conveys the deceptively easy-going Mickey in contrast to another of Christian Bale’s entertainingly crazed performances as the drawling, twitching, hollow-eyed ne’er-do-well older brother and the favourite of blowsy mum Melissa Leo.

One can scarcely imagine the emotional turmoil for parents who lose their child young but writer David Lindsay-Abaire has with an award-winning play he has adapted for the screen, Rabbit Hole (Cert 12A).

Nicole Kidman is Becca, a suburban mum who has withdrawn into herself after her nine-year-old son was knocked down by a car to the despair of husband Howie, (Aaron Eckhart) who believes they must try and get on with their lives.

Fine performances though they are, the film has a pervading mood of gloom only occasionally lifted with moments of humour.

Becca in particular is a character that it is hard to like, even if we can sympathise.

Perhaps the problem is that, as in real life, their pain is something we would prefer to avert our gaze from – which may very well be the point Lindsay-Abaire is making but it hardly makes for a good night out.