Two Dramas from Alliance
Brighton Rock (May 4/12)
Based on Graham Greene's tedious novel, Brighton Rock follows headstrong hoodlum Pinkie Brown (Sam Riley) as he attempts to cover up a murder by befriending (and eventually romancing) the sole witness (Andrea Riseborough's Rose) - with the film detailing the pair's unlikely relationship and the chaos that inevitably ensues as the bodies start piling up. Filmmaker Rowan Joffe has infused Brighton Rock with stylish visuals that initially compensate for the less-than-engrossing storyline, with the movie's passable atmosphere heightened by the strong performances from its eclectic supporting cast (which includes, among others, Helen Mirren, John Hurt, and Andy Serkis). There's little doubt, however, that the decidedly unlikeable nature of Riley's character becomes more and more problematic as time progresses, as the narrative, which is primarily propeled forward by Pinkie's ongoing exploits, consequently suffers from a lack of momentum and compelling elements that inevitably proves disastrous (ie one is simply and persistently unable to work up any interest in Pinkie's comings and goings). And although Joffe has admittedly peppered the proceedings with a handful of compelling interludes (eg a mob killing that's set against the backdrop of a violent riot), Brighton Rock, much like its irrelevent literary predecessor, primarily comes off as a worthless waste of time that wears out its welcome almost immediately.
Safety Not Guaranteed (June 5/12)
An intriguing yet erratic effort, Safety Not Guaranteed follows three magazine employees (Aubrey Plaza's Darius, Jake Johnson's Jeff, and Karan Soni's Arnau) as they attempt to find and interview the man (Mark Duplass' Kenneth) behind a classified ad seeking a companion for time time travel - with the film, for the most part, detailing the low-key, character-based exploits of the four protagonists. Filmmaker Colin Trevorrow has infused Safety Not Guaranteed with an off-beat sensibility that effectively complements Derek Connolly's light-hearted and comedically-charged screenplay, with, in particular, the movie's briskly-paced opening half hour setting the stage for an almost typically irreverent indie. The movie's less-than-substantive atmosphere is, without question, perpetuated by its affable roster of performances, with the strong work from Duplass, Soni, and, especially, Johnson essentially compensating for the somewhat off-putting nature of Plaza's deadpan turn (which does, admittedly, grow on the viewer as time progresses). It's worth noting, also, that despite the sci-fi bent of the movie's storyline, Safety Not Guaranteed is, for the most part, concerned primarily with the personal obstacles and challenges of its central characters (eg Darius snaps out of her depressive funk, Arnau learns to relax and have fun, etc) - with the misfits-finding-their-place-in-the-world vibe initially disguising the decided lack of momentum within Connolly's script. There reaches a point, however, at which the meandering atmosphere becomes impossible to comfortably overlook, with the wheel-spinning third act paving the way for an abrupt finale that simply isn't satisfying in the least (ie it's just frustratingly ambiguous) - which ultimately cements Safety Not Guaranteed's place as a pervasively rough-around-the-edges endeavor that could (and should) have been so much better.