Starring Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, David Bradley, Ben Drew
Writer: Gary Young
Director: Daniel Barber
Release: 13 November 2009, 01 September 2010 (DVD)
Lionsgate, 103 mins., Rated R
Plot: Gang violence in South London is at a all-time high, and no matter the complaints of the people, the police force don't intervene. Widowed Harry Brown dealt with it much like everyone else, but once his only connection to humanity was severed, it's time to say enough is enough.
No, it's not Gran Torino 2: The Caineanator, but yes indeed, it does have a older man in the lead role who wishes to do some violence. In the case of Eastwood's movie, he did what he did to protect a kid from bullying, a kid that he became quite fond of; Harry Brown is a man who has the intelligence and skills to exact some gun-filled vigilantism, but he chooses not to until every shred of his life gets taken away from him - his wife, his friend. It's that personal inner chaos and the exterior chaos of the level of lethal gang violence in the neighborhood that finally ignites Harry Brown to do something about it, because the police sure as hell ain't.
Michael Caine (JAWS: THE REVENGE) is Harry Brown, and brings all the goods. Caine is brilliant as he displays Harry Brown's sorrow, conveyed only in the eyes as Harry has quite the resolve. It's only at the news of his wife's death that he breaks, and it's a chilling scene to watch, indeed. After that, Harry is a cold man, walking through the motions, chess games with his friend Leonard the only thing he's got to look forward to. The violence around him does not go unnoticed - he watches it, he sees the gangs beating people up right next to a nearby tunnel where they congregate, but, like everyone, does nothing. Emily Mortimer, the girl who I was thinking, "I know you!! But from where???" [THE PINK PANTHER, 2006], plays Detective Inspector Alice Framptom, a woman who is sympathetic to Brown, but simultaneously could be his foil. That actress if mesmerizing - her body expressions, her voice, her eyes; holy crap, I can't wait to look through Mortimer's filmography and delve right into it. David Bradley [HARRY POTTER franchise - Filch] hammers on the sad feelings as Leonard, a man just as lonely and broken as Harry.
So...this old dude loses everyone he cares about, and his solution is to go out and murder all the gang dudes? Probably not the most sympathetic character around, but Caine and writer Gary Young pull it off quite well. It's like KICK-ASS earlier this year - 'no one else is doing it, someone ought to'. So Harry, with his Marines background, decides to be the person to deal with it. Killing all of 'em wasn't his goal, mind - his singular goal was to find out who murdered his friend and bring that person to justice. Everyone else was just kinda stupid and made attempts to stop him, which ultimately resulted in their being dead, so in a way...it IS self defense. Nevermind, rambling now. Anyway, the scenes where Harry confronts the gang members isn't full of senseless, mindless violence on a SAW level; although Harry is rather devoid of emotion when he pulls the trigger, the movie doesn't go all-out crazy with the blood or the violence, which is respectable.
Director Daniel Barber crafts a slow moving film full of tension, sadness, and chaos. Every second with Harry in action is surprisingly tense, as I'm always on the edge knowing what's going to happen to the poor bloke. Of particular note, I'm thinking of the scene where he purchases a gun from some marijuana dealers - a perfect example of the tense atmosphere that pervades over the entire picture. And of course there's the chaos - every scene with the gangs, often filmed with hand-held cameras or through a characters iPhone. The most chilling aspect is that none of these kids have any remorse - they do their thing, and they don't give a shit about it. So, basically, kick some ass Harry Brown!
The movie isn't a deep insightful look at the soul of a man who chooses to exact some vigilante justice, and why he did it. It's rather a straight forward drama with bits of action and blood to hammer home the real, dirty feeling of the whole affair. A pretty good, entirely gripping movie with some great performances from every member of the cast, HARRY BROWN is highly recommended.