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Harry Brown (movie)

Movie directed by Daniel Barber, stars Michael Caine

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British "Death Wish" Fantasy Collides With Some "Gran Torino" Realism...

  • Sep 22, 2010
While Hollywood is pitching new and old action stars in the recent flick “The Expendables”, British filmmakers go for a more simpler, dramatic route when it comes to gritty shoot outs. Director Daniel Barber brings the sight of a menacing older hero in the form of Michael Caine in the film “Harry Brown”. The film is a “Gran Torino” meets “Death Wish” fantasy that brings the protagonist against England’s much feared hoodie generation for control of a community. This is a potent and strong motion picture about citizens finally getting tired of all the injustices they’ve seen in their world.

An aging ex-marine and widower, Harry Brown (Michael Caine) is now in a very emotional stage of his life; he had just recently missed his sister’s final moments in this life and he just spends most of his days playing chess with his friend Leonard Atwell (David Bradley). When Leonard is killed by those Harry suspects are the local hoodlums that infest their area, thoughts of revenge go around his mind as he intends to find some form of justice and closure. This brings a concerned female detective (Emily Mortimer) into the fold, but she is held back by all the politics and red tape in her police unit. Harry is determined to enter the dark seedy world of the crime that pollutes his area; he brings forth chaos and disorder, as he finds hard answers that he never expected…

              Michael Caine as Harry Brown in "Harry Brown."

             Emily Mortimer as Frampton in "Harry Brown."

The premise of the film is very simple and quite frankly, it borrows some elements from Eastwood’s “Gran Torino” and “Death Wish”. What I liked about “Harry Brown” is the potency with which it brings forth its idea. Harry is instead looking for redemption and purpose rather than simple vengeance. It is a call to arms for citizens to take back what is theirs and not to become intimidated by thugs. Yes, the film is not going to win any awards for originality but its depressing theme of helplessness is quite powerful that it can keep the film aloft. Nope, Harry is no “Charles Bronson” and doesn‘t take pleasure in his acts of vigilantism; he is just a simple guy who has reached the end of his rope, and his psychological state sees this action as the only solution.

                  Michael Caine as Harry Brown in "Harry Brown."

It was nice of the film to remain neutral on the topic of vigilantism, as it neither glorifies or criticizes the act. It presents the vigilante ideology as something that may well be a necessity in the world of Harry Brown; it is not something that is right nor wron,; but something that is a reaction when someone decides that there is just so much they could take. I liked the idea that the film practiced a sense of restraint in the violence (though there are some pretty bloody scenes and intense sequences, I was a little turned off with the CGI blood though), but it never uses them as a formula to engage its viewer; it uses them to express a reality that most of us have hidden from. When the revenge themes full speed, the film slows down to remind the viewer that violence never solves anything, that it is wise to pull back when one is lost in emotion. Unfortunately, while its ambitious theme is indeed visible, there were times that it did pitch in too much into the Harry Brown set mentality of vengeance as he tussles with the dirtbags.

                          Michael Caine as Harry Brown in "Harry Brown."

                         Emily Mortimer as Frampton and Michael Caine as Harry Brown in "Harry Brown."

Aside from the direction by Barber, the film is helped along by the strong characters led by Harry. Harry is written as a man who is just waiting out his life (there are hints that he may have a terminal illness) and has nothing to lose. I liked the way the direction focused on the emotions and the drama that revolves around its protagonist and sidesteps the clichés of brutality and violence to bring forth its themes. I know, there were some very intense moments, but they weren’t the nearly impossible feats of cold human fury. This “Bronson-like” figure is angry but not the way you may expect.

It was nice to have a strong lead like Michael Caine who can just pull off the role as the sympathetic hand of justice. Harry is a man with a past that devastated him as he carries memories of his family and his stint in the army. He has earned medals killing folks who were fighting for their beliefs, and this time around, Harry is fighting for something more. Emily Mortimer made an impact on me as the sympathetic side of the law. She is such a strong character and it was wise of the script to incorporate a woman as the opposite side of this fence. She knows what is right and what is wrong, and yet she never gives in to her emotions, and she really does represent the law.

The last act of the film is a representation of the dissatisfactions of society (the local cops fight off a riot) and how things can be perceived differently through different sets of eyes. The last twist and surprises were good and compelling, but it wasn’t as powerful as it should have been since it somewhat felt like it came from almost nowhere and it wasn’t properly built up to the narrative. This isn’t a negative comment but more of an observation, as Harry stands up to face his enemies and make a last jab to make a
personal statement in his life.

Recommended! [3 ½ Out of 5 Stars]
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3 ½ Stars: British

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September 22, 2010
I think this film went over me because I never heard of it. This film sounds pretty good and certainly make you pay attention from issues it tackles. Great review Woopak.
September 24, 2010
Thanks, milady! How have you been doing? I missed yah!
September 24, 2010
Same here Miss you too. You have your hands all tied up for good reasons of course. As for me I'm doing just fine and NC seems to be nice so far.
September 22, 2010
Sounds like a really good flick WP, anything that mixes those two films well has to be good.
September 24, 2010
Michael Caine is amazing as the lead. I think I may buy this film after the rental. It is pretty good and realistic.
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About this movie


  • Opened April 30, 2010 | Runtime:1 hr. 43 min.
  • Rated R
    sexual content, strong violence, language throughout and drug use
  • Set in modern day Britain, HARRY BROWN follows one man’s journey through a chaotic world where teenage violence runs rampant. As a modest, law abiding citizen, Brown lives alone. His only companion is his best friend Leonard. When Leonard is killed, Brown reaches his breaking point. HARRY BROWN is a powerful, character driven thriller starring two-time Academy Award® winner Michael Caine in a tour-de-force performance.
  • Cast: Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, Charlie Creed-Miles, Ben Drew, Liam Cunningham
  • Director: Daniel Barber
  • Genres: Crime ThrillerThriller
  • Poster art for "Harry Brown."
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    Genre: Thriller
    MPAA Rating: R

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