Harry Brown (2010) Short Review
WARNING: A SLIGHT SPOILER ABOUNDS: I had heard some things about this film that were not entirely true; mostly that the film embraces the idea of vigilante revenge killings as morally ‘right’ and I found that it did not. With Emily Mortimer’s character, the film does voice the opinion that you can’t have a civilized society with this kind of street justice.
I think it actually has a little in common, not with the Death Wish films, so much as Taxi Driver. Not in the respect that Harry is off his rocker, but that ultimately he does something that is unlawful, perhaps immoral, and by film’s end he hasn’t had to face societal repercussions and he’s in a better state of mind than he was at the beginning. So was I, though. There’s a bit of catharsis in seeing obnoxious deserving neer-do-wells (and they ARE obnoxious in this) get blown away onscreen, right or wrong.
The story is a direct one. Michael Caine’s haggard, weary Harry Brown is a former soldier, who had long left that sort of occasionally violent life behind him because of his wife’s influence. He is aging in an increasingly violent society, but chooses to look the other way like everyone else when it comes to dealing with the blatant lawlessness that goes on right in his own neighborhood.
But his wife dies. Then his only friend (another elderly gentleman) comes to him complaining about the young thugs that harass him on a daily basis. Harry tells him to inform the police of his problem, but he already has. They’ve done nothing (of course) and now he was hoping that Harry would help him deal with them (with the necessary violence). Harry will not… Until his friend is killed by the neighborhood drug dealing hoodlums. After the police and the court system prove futile, Harry decides to basically get even for the death of his friend.
Caine is really good here, but then, he always is. He’s one of those actors that can make anything sound good. The bad guys are convincingly repugnant. Loud. Arrogant. Defiant, yet cowardly. The director does a good job with making them seem worthy of being the victims of Harry’s vengeance. This is also different from other revenge tales of this variety, just from the fact that the one doling out the punishment is of an advanced age. Harry struggles with his physical limitations. There is a funny scene or two involving some of the stereotypical things you expect from someone up in age. Harry makes one of his victims work a cell phone for him.
I enjoyed the movie, but mostly just for Caine in the lead. He’s had quite an extraordinary career and its great to see him in a lead role again. He can still carry a film, rather easily. The story itself is predictable, except for one (slight) twist towards the end. It’s also ever so slightly over the top at times, but I didn’t mind that. It had the standard professional looking cinematography that’s common nowadays. Not a complaint, but there are an awful lot of movies that have this same kind of hyper-crisp look with the blue/green and amber-golds for the night scenes. Artistically speaking it was uninspired, but that’s minor for this kind of story. It’s well acted and a professionally made revenge tale.
4 of 5