Review: Harry Brown

You’re immersed in a dreary and disgusting world of crime and chaos, where the only hope is a pensioner with a pistol. Michael Caine’s Harry Brown may be an old formula but it’s a welcome ride.

Cain and newbie director Daniel Barber take us to a very bleak British suburb that we know exists but, if we’re lucky, have never been to. From the opening quiet moments to the explosive ending, you will be a fan of Harry Brown.


Pensioner Harry Brown lives a quiet life. He lives alone. He goes to the pub for a pint and a game of chess with his best and only friend Lenny. He visits his dying wife. He watches the world crumble outside his window, full of drugs and violence. One day, that world crashes through that window. With tragedy upon tragedy heaped upon him, Harry takes matters into his own hands…if “matters” were a wide variety of high-calibre weapons. The police are on to him but do they really want to stop him?

This is not an original concept. Long before Charles Bronson’s Death Wish or Michael Douglas’ Falling Down and as recently as Mel Gibson’s Heart of Darkness, the idea of a lone man taking more than he can stand and lashing out… is always a crowd-pleaser. We may not have had such a terrible life but we have been in situations or seen things we wish we could take control of. Harry Brown does that for us.

Michael Caine is awesome in this. From the quiet moments, the heart break and loss, to the commanding presence and violent behavior, it’s all believable that he could do it. We want to root for him (barrack for you Aussies reading). We want him to get away with it. How could you ask for anything more in a revenge flick?

The rest of the cast are fine additions. Emily Mortimer is the only other “name” actor and her officer Frampton brings a balance of order but understanding to the situation. The actors playing the kids are just the right level of asshole…which is good because we want them to get their comeuppance.

The other real star of this is London, or whatever non-descript British city this is. It’s a sad, sad place. You can actually feel the filth and the grime. The depressing mood is almost palpable. That’s from great scenery and great direction on the part of the director and cinematographer. I look forward to their next work but for now I’m happy with Harry.

3 stars – good movie, take a friend. He’s British. He’s pissed. He’s doing what we all wish we could. Michael Caine delivers in one of his best roles. Whether as a sad, lonely old man with no one to talk to or as a vigilante describing gut-shots to a gun dealer, Michael Caine breathes life in to a dated genre.

Random Recommendations
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988) – I don’t know if you know this or not but Steve Martin used to be funny. The Jerk. Plains, Trains and Automobiles.  And this. A battle between con-men, one big-time (Caine) and one small-time (Martin). It is great watching these two play off each other and sabotaging each effort.


Death Wish (1974) – How could I watch Harry Brown and not recommend this “I can’ts stands no more” epic story. Charles Bronson’s family is destroyed by violence, but nothing a Smith & Wesson can’t cure. And you might enjoy Jeff Goldblum’s humbling performance as “Freak #1″



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