In his excellent new book, The Psychopath Test, Jon Ronson examines the 20 key indicators of a psychopath – they're manipulative/ cunning, they lack remorse or guilt, and so on. Pinkie Brown, Graham Greene's enduringly vile hoodlum, just about ticks every psychotic box, and Richard Attenborough was sensational as the juvenile gangster-by-the-sea in the Boulting brothers' peerless 1947 adaptation.
Rowan Joffe's new take, set in 1964 among rioting mods and rockers, is less successful. One of the great strengths of the Boultings' film was its 1930 setting, the sea air reeked of seedy low-level crime. This feels a tad too cool and Sam Riley (excellent as Ian Curtis in Control), as Pinkie, is indie-band pretty. (Attenborough's cold eyes and round face were, by contrast, perfect.) The plot centres on Pinkie's brutal rise through the local underworld and his manipulation ("You're sensitive, like me") of a naive waitress, Rose (Andrea Riseborough), who he must keep sweet to stay clear of the hangman's noose. Riseborough is impressive as the timid Rose – a precursor to Sissy Spacek's unhinged teen in Badlands – who adores Pinkie. However, too much is missing from Joffe's version. The great ghost train slaying from the 1947 version is replaced by a bludgeoning under the pier, and the wise Dallow character is downgraded. It's all too cool. And Pinkie's not cool. He's a psycho.Reuse content