As The Playlist points out, the first poster for the upcoming remake of British noir classic “Brighton Rock” pays reverent homage to that iconic, dorm-room staple one-sheet for “A Clockwork Orange.”
Sam Riley’s thug has the same hat, ditto the thrust-upwards knife. What’s different are the colors — the lurid orange, white and black combo are swapped out for dismal gray — and the facial expression. Malcolm McDowell was grinning, while Riley is definitely scowling. (It’s even more interesting to contrast it with this poster design, whose out-of-nowhere naked woman ups the surrealism.
“A Clockwork Orange” has a fanatical following among college students, who dearly treasure the film’s easily embraced mixture of jet-black humor and gleeful violence. Many probably take the latter at face value a bit too much, but that’s why it’s a staple.
“A Clockwork Orange” doesn’t so much celebrate the poetry of violence — the way, say, John Woo builds aesthetic raptures out of bullets and blood — as render it an oddly comic spectacle. There’s a significant gap between that and the lyrically “serious” violence of something like the once-decried, now-feted slow-motion deaths in “Bonnie and Clyde,” which softens the kick of the violence.
The grayscale, po-faced seriousness proposed by the “Brighton Rock” poster is a new development. Rare these days is the blockbuster or action film not color-corrected to death one way or another — think of the blurry gray of “Sherlock Holmes,” the lurid overcranking of orange in “Crank,” the collected saturation hues of Tony Scott movies, the blues of “Underworld.” (It’s not a stretch to suggest part of “Iron Man”‘s appeal was its unfussy, workmanlike and natural colors.)
A corollary of this new aesthetic is a relative lack of joy in violence — often shown slightly amped up, slowing down only for the money shots and/or spurts of blood, resulting in a dull trudge than a spectacular ride where the violence of a film like “Clockwork Orange” remains intact, but without the ambiguous feeling of glee that makes it interesting or engaging. It’s colorless, and not just in its palette.
[Photos: “A Clockwork Orange,” Warner Bros., 1971; “Underworld: Evolution,” Screen Gems, 2006]