When people announce their going to remake a classic film most people’s response will be ‘why bother?’ After all your chances of producing something that’s even half as good, bearing in mind the complexities of making the average film, are nil.
Your only chance is to update or alter the original in such a way that we are not reminded overly of it.
This is the tact taken by the makers of the beautiful looking remake of ‘Brighton Rock’
Instead of being set in the 1930’s the film has been updated to 1964, the year of mod versus rocker riots in Brighton (quiet prescient considering the riots that occurred in Britain this year).
This is a smart move as it allows us to reference a period of modern culture many are already familiar with, as well as lets us see a lot of very nice looking vintage scooters.
Unfortunately, the period piece details and set design are about the best thing the film has to offer.
With a gangster film the most important thing is the believable sense of menace emanating from the lead gangster in your tale. Whether it’s Bob Hoskins in ‘The Long Good Friday’ or Ben Kingsley in ‘Sexy Beast’.
Sam Riley doesn’t as yet have that quality. He’s a very fine actor but I don’t really feel his threat. When I look into his innocent face, that’s all I see – innocence.
Consequently what I’m left with when I watch ‘Brighton Rock’ is a well-directed, visually stylish gangster film that feels rather flat.
Granted it’s hard for any young actor to make us feel he could kill but I’m sure the young De Niro could have managed it.
I also notice the tendency for a lot of British exports to be high on style but rather low on content. There is an obvious delight in getting Riley to steal an electric blue Lambretta and ride it through the streets of Brighton a la Quadrophenia and clearly a lot of time has been spent on the décor for rival gangster Corleone’s hotel suite but a moviegoer can not live by art direction alone.
We need characters that we care about, and in ’Brighton Rock’ frosty style keeps us at a distance. So we are constantly aware of how cool it all is but have no interest in the people that inhabit this world.