Review of Harry Brown (2009)

30 Aug

Harry Brown (2009) is a thriller/drama/crime film, following a Royal Marines veteran,  living on a housing estate that is rapidly descending into youth crime.

Directed by Daniel Barber (The Tonto Woman (2008 Short)).

Written by Gary Young (The Tournament (2009), The Last Drop (2006)).

Starring: Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, David Bradley, Iain Glen, Ben Drew, Jack O’Connell, Sean Harris, Charlie Creed-Miles and others.

The first three minutes of the film are probably the most shocking part of the movie. I’m not saying it as a compliment or a put-down to the rest of the movie, it’s just that a few teenagers on motorbikes and drugs shoot at a woman with a baby, while filming it on a cellphone is a disturbingly realistic portrayal of modern senseless violence.

Then we see Michael Caine, whose life doesn’t get better from the point we are introduced to him. His wife is in a catatonic state in the hospital and soon passes away, from his window he can see young people dealing drugs and beating people up. His friend is pretty sick of the scum and tries to stand up to them and gets killed. Caine gets pretty pissed off about all this shit.

I liked that while the justice system is depicted as totally broken and retarded, the police isn’t portrayed as a bunch of incompetent donut eating morons.

Of course, there’s a breaking point, when Caine’s character Harry Brown decides to be a vigilante. He goes to a creepy drug dealer/junkie guy, who has a whole plantation of marijuana in his apartment. The junkies and violent kids are portrayed very realistically, so it’s kind of disgusting to watch and not only on a moral level.

It’s a lot like Death Wish, if the Charles Bronson’s Paul Kersey character was older, only Harry exhibits more emotions, while doing these acts of vigilantism. It’s about an hour into the movie, when Harry actually starts being bad-ass. Yeah, you can say that this is a more thoughtful movie than Death Wish, but I don’t think there is that much of a difference. There’s even a scene where Harry is going after a guy and some shots on him chasing him on some stairs by a bridge, that are very similar to a scene in Death Wish. The elderly ex-soldier, who is sick of young violent kids is a theme that showed up in Gran Torino as well.

It’s interesting to put this movie in opposition to Attack the Block, which had a very similar setting, yet the juvenile delinquents were shown in a much more positive light. I’m not from UK, but the lower class occupied living apartment blocks are quite common where I live and the way the aggressive youth is portrayed in this movie, from my experience, seems a lot more accurate.

It is fitting that my last review was of Hobo With a Shotgun, a very different kind of movie, yet having the very same theme. It’s an interesting contrast, Harry Brown is less violent, while more disturbing, which is good, that this movie makes someone think, while Hobo is just dumb entertainment. On the other hand, Harry Brown never seemed to find the right balance of being an examination of youth violence and a bad-ass vigilante-thriller.  It might not be important to most people, but Harry Brown used CG blood effects, which always sort of detract from a movie for me personally.

Overall, nothing groundbreaking, a solid revenge/vigilante crime drama/thriller threading very familiar territory, but rests firmly on the always reliable Michael Caine. Recommended.

“You know I’m buying this gun to shoot scum like you?”
“All I know is that you look like Michael Caine. Where I’m from, you don’t argue with someone who looks like Michael Caine.”

2 Responses to “Review of Harry Brown (2009)”

  1. cinemasoundblog August 31, 2012 at 4:30 am #

    I like this review. I might end up checking out this movie for Michael Caine. Check out my site and follow me if you like my movie reviews: http://www.cinemasoundblog.com

    • karlails August 31, 2012 at 12:59 pm #

      Thanks, yeah, sure I’ll check out your site.

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