London To Brighton
Review by Jack Foley
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Director’s commentary; Alternative ending; Deleted scenes; Georgia Groome audition tape; Short film – Royalty
CONTRARY to what its name suggests, London To Brighton is not a film about charity bikeathons but rather a gritty British gangster thriller that provides a welcome shot in the arm to the genre.
Written and directed by debutant Paul Andrew Williams, the film is a breathless and often unpleasant race against time that manages to remain fresh and exciting despite operating in some overly familiar territory.
All the usual ingredients are there – from violent crime bosses and foul-mouthed pimps to prostitutes and paedophiles – but Williams neatly side-steps the pitfalls and Guy Ritchie/Quentin Tarantino nods that cripple most British thrillers.
He thrusts viewers into his world in unapologetic fashion, grabbing their attention with a vice-like grip and refusing to let go throughout. What’s more, he does it without pulling any punches.
Things begin at 3.07am as beaten-up hooker Kelly (Lorraine Stanley) and weeping 11-year-old Joanne (Georgia Groome) burst into a public toilet desperate to find some shelter.
They’re on the run and desperately need to flee London for fear of who’s after them.
Once Kelly has turned tricks to finance a couple of train tickets, the girls head for the relative safe haven of Brighton where they intend to get some perspective and find a way out of their mess.
Back in the capital, meanwhile, a pimp named Derek (Johnny Harris) has been summoned to appear before violent crime boss Stuart Allen (Sam Spruell), who wants revenge for the murder of his father. He is subsequently given hours to find Kelly and Joanne or face the consequences of their actions himself.
Part of the ‘fun’ of watching London To Brighton unfold is discovering exactly what has happened but even once things have become clear, there remains a lot of uncertainty surrounding the fate of each character.
Crucially, Williams never allows things to become exploitatively bloody or needlessly voyeuristic despite creating a tangible sense of impending violence throughout and operating in seedy territory.
A lot of his characters are truly horrific and capable of vile acts, yet there is also tremendous heart to the movie as epitomised by the unlikely relationship that develops between Kelly and Joanne.
Both Stanley and Groome are excellent as the women in peril, offsetting their obvious fear with a determination to survive, while Harris and Spruell create two memorably chilling psychopaths.
And while the film looks and feels low-budget, this only adds to the grim and gritty authenticity of the experience.
London To Brighton is, therefore, highly recommended viewing that ought to herald an exciting new era for the British gangster thriller.
Running time: 86mins