Harry Brown

Michael Caine shines as the titular character in Daniel Barber’s 2009 film Harry Brown. Barber, a first-time director fuses the typical revenge film with a angry older man, in the vein of Gran Torino, and produces a solid, shocking and occasionally scary film.

As Harry Brown, Caine has his normal charm on display, yet this is no ordinary performance. The beginning of the film he’s pleasant, but it’s clear that time has set in upon the man. He’s frail, fragile looking as he checks in on his sick wife. It’s no spoiler to say that she passes alone in a hospital bed while he’s sleeping. The loss strikes this former military man hard, and while he’s given up the life of torture and physical punishment, something in the neighborhood awakens the killer in Harry Brown.

There are some highly effective scenes shot by Barber in this film where we are shown this mob mentality youth have and the point is made that to them this isn’t seen as wrong. To bully, beat, and kill is seen as nothing but entertainment. Growing up in this neighborhood, Brown is appalled at this kids as is his long-time friend Leonard. Leonard goes on to say how afraid he is to be living in this neighborhood and begins carrying a long knife. One morning, the police, lead by Emily Mortimer’s Alice stop by to inform Harry that Leonard has been killed. From here, Harry can no longer be witness to this kids, and he decides to get a gun. This was by far the most memorable scene in the film for me. The portrayal of the drug dealers seemed so authentic, so unpredictable, that this scene in particular really drew me into the film. From here, we see the consequences of Harry’s decision and his quest to find the people that killed his friend Leonard.

What really sells the film for me is the performance by Caine. It’s what brought attention to the film for me and I really could watch him in most any role. What’s different about this performance though is he doesn’t really rely on the typical Michael Caine performance here. In the film he has to stretch as there are a lot of emotions to convey and a lot for this character to go through. Another particularly effective part of the film was the choice to highlight the sound of the gunshots. Much like the film The Departed, this film seemed to amp up the sound of the gun to a point where it would make me jump when it would go off. I like the choice as it shows that this is a real world with some real consequences and it’s not all for fun. The only problem I had with the film is that I still have difficulty with the British accent. At times it was difficult to understand who the characters were by name and that spoils a reveal towards the end of the film. It’s a great English revenge film that shows how good Caine can be in practically anything and how much of a pansy Walt Kowalski really is.

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