London to Brighton
NEW YORK -- A gritty British gangster film that leaves a bitter aftertaste, Paul Andrew Williams' "London to Brighton" is as technically assured as it is ultimately superfluous. This tale of a hardened but goodhearted prostitute and the young girl she reluctantly recruits has an all-too- familiar feel coming at the tail end of the wave of so many similarly themed efforts.
The film begins in audacious fashion as beat-up hooker Kelly (Lorraine Stanley) and the hysterical 12-year-old Joanne (Georgia Groome) desperately burst into a public restroom, with a title informing us that it is "London, 3:07 a.m."
The time-shifting chronology that follows details how the two got into their predicament, with Kelly being pressured by her pimp, Derek (Johnny Harris), to procure a young girl for his boss, the short-tempered gangster Stuart (Sam Spruell). It turns out that Stuart wants the girl not for himself but for his father (Alexander Morton), who has a taste for underage girls.
Things don't turn out well during the encounter, with the father winding up dead and the two women being pursued by their desperate pimp. It all culminates with the usual onslaught of violence and betrayals.
Shot in an ultra-realistic style using plenty of jerky hand-held camerawork, the melodramatic film lacks the emotional resonance necessary to compensate for its relentless graphic brutality. Its saving grace are the performances by the two female leads, who bring complex shadings to their roles, and the charismatic underplaying of Spruell, who makes his repugnant gangster character far more fascinating than he has a right to be.