Rumble in Brighton

British street rats on the run in London to Brighton

A title card informs us that it is “London — 3:07 a.m.” as a battered prostitute and a tear-streaked 11-year-old girl burst through the door of a filthy public washroom. The prostitute Kelly (Lorraine Stanley) informs the girl Joanne (Georgia Groome) that they must now leave the city and tells her to sit tight in the locked toilet cubicle while she gets them some food. Soon they’re on a train to Brighton fleeing for their lives. It’s an attention-grabbing opening and the viewer immediately wonders what sequence of events led to this panicked migration. The film milks this intriguing setup by portioning out the backstory in bite-sized flashbacks throughout London to Brighton’ s 85-minute running time.

We learn that Kelly was sent by her thuggish pimp (Johnny Harris) to procure an underage girl for illicit purposes. Something horrible happened and now the elegant dead-eyed psychopath who arranged the deal (Sam Spruell) has given the pimp 24 hours to find the errant duo. Other bits and pieces of the plot are revealed as we track the progress of the fugitives and their shotgun-toting pursuers.

The acting pacing editing and overall atmosphere of panic and dread are all first rate but the characters aren’t easy to relate to. Kelly the protagonist is a creature capable of picking up a confused runaway and handing her over to dangerous criminals. The fact that she later becomes the girl’s protector redeems her slightly but not fully. Joanne the runaway child isn’t much better. She lies curses smokes drinks and seems incapable of gratitude. The main reason we’re intended to root for these two is that they’re in unspeakable danger.

London to Brighton is admirable even if it’s not really likable. The overall atmosphere is quite unpleasant but since that was clearly the intent it’s hard to be critical of it. Plenty of talent passion and hard work went into this film but the overall purpose is a little unclear. Perhaps writer-director Paul Andrew Williams’s next project will be more impressive as he certainly displays potential as a filmmaker. Many viewers will no doubt admire the gritty heart-pounding immediacy displayed here but it’s a bit odd that a film with such extreme subject matter should leave viewers neither exhilarated nor devastated.