Thursday, 19 August 2010

Harry Brown: Movie Review

Harry Brown: Movie Review

Harry Brown
Rating: 7/10
Cast: Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, Liam Cunningham, Iain Glen, Ben Drew
Director: Daniel Barber
Crikey, if this is an even remotely accurate view of life in England these days, then I'm glad I'm here.
In what's rumoured to be his acting swansong, Caine is ex serviceman Harry Brown, who lives his life on a council estate and getting by since being recently widowed.
His one real friend in life, fellow pensioner Leonard (David Bradley) drinks with Harry but confides in him one day that he's frightened and being terrorized by the estate's hoody brigade.
When the police show up on his door - in the form of Emily Mortimer's quiet and thoughtful DI Frampton - one day and tell him that Leonard's been found in a local underpass brutally murdered, Brown realizes that the fight against the lawless has come to his door.
So he decides to take his own measures to ensure the clean up of the estate begins.
Touted as the UK's answer to Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino and Charles Bronson's Death Wish, there's certainly plenty of similarities in this one man campaign for violent vengeance.
But it's thanks to Caine's studied and underplayed performance, that it's more shocking when the quiet soulless eyed pensioner Brown finally explodes into a murderous rampage.
And it's also thanks to Daniel Barber's direction, that you really can't blame him for going postal on the hooded gangs and yobs who're spreading fear around - and liberally bashing whomsoever they want. With a hand held shot opening that sees the group getting high and going on a drug fuelled rampage (which culminates in the callous shooting of a mother), there's never really any chance to offer any sympathy to these foul mouthed tykes.
Sure the message is somewhat heavy handed and the agenda somewhat liberal, but it's very hard to find yourself not rooting for Caine's Harry Brown, the vigilante pensioner who police dismiss as being behind the escalating violence. Emily Mortimer's DI Frampton is also good - with her quiet desperation at the lack of support from her superiors etched across her face. Though it has to be said she's somewhat lacking when faced opposite the towering Caine.
There's plenty of dark humour buried well within the grime and horror which unfolds on the screen; a sequence where Brown ends up buying a gun from a drug dealer is a masterclass in itching tension and uncomfortable horror; but there's also unfortunately a risible end which makes Harry Brown a slightly botched opportunity and detracts a little from what's gone before.

That said, this is Michael Caine's best performance in a while - his sad sack ex-serviceman is a simmering formidable foe for the dregs of society. But it's his moments of quiet dignity on the screen which remind you that if this really is his last role, we're losing someone monumental.

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