Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
Pinkie Brown is a low-level thug in a second-rate gang in Brighton, the British seaside holiday town known for its pier. He is also a psychopath in over his head. One day, he chats up a waitress named Rose in a tea shop, goes walking on the pier with her, and is snapped by a tourist photographer just when they meet a fellow gang member. Not long after, he batters the man to death beneath the pier, and then sets out to retrieve the damning evidence of the photo. He also must silence Rose, who realizes she met the murder victim whose picture is in the paper.
This sets in motion "Brighton Rock," the second film adaptation of Graham Greene's 1938 novel. Greene's Catholicism plays a central role in the lives of many of his characters, few more than Pinkie and Rose — she because she holds a simple faith, he because he believes in hell and that he is headed there.
This Pinkie (Sam Riley) is an evil young man, dead-eyed, fearful, violent. Why does Rose (Andrea Riseborough) fall in love with him? And well she does. Instead of killing her to silence her, Pinkie marries Rose. Then she can't be forced to testify against her husband. This is explained to Rose, too late, by Ida (Helen Mirren), the steely owner of the tea shop, who figures out the whole story but can't prevent Rose from falling under Pinkie's power.
"Brighton Rock" is a film of ominous gloom. The sea rolls darkly under the pier, the full cries are forlorn, the music is mournful, the colors are muted. It is often overcast, or dusk, or night, and there is little sunshine for those seeking a holiday. It takes place in shabby boarding houses and on chilly cliffs, and when the action moves to the grand hotel where the gangsters meet, some of the characters seem uneasy there.