Film review: Harry Brown (2009), directed by Daniel Barber
Picture the scene: You’re a pensioner. You’ve been a good citizen all your life. Where do you live? A run-down housing estate full of criminals, druggies, and terrorising hoodies. Your wife, hospitalised for some time, dies, and your best friend is constantly harassed by the teens on the estate, trying to set fire to his apartment, pushing dog poo through the letterbox, and so on.
You’ve already been to the police – they didn’t care, so you’ve turned to arming yourself. And that very friend, your chess buddy down at the pub, gets beaten and stabbed to death by those very same teens.
What would you do?
For Harry Brown (Michael Caine), an ex-marine, the answer is to become a vigilante and take the law into his own hands; going after the murder suspects and get justice for his friend. It’s not pretty, but it’s so incredibly well acted!
As soon as Len (David Bradley), Harry’s friend, showed up on screen, I exclaimed “Hey, it’s Mr Filch!” – no mistaking the caretaker of Hogwarts, even though I didn’t know the name of the actor off the top of my head. Michael Caine does a stellar performance, as a man with a heart in an estate where there is no law. He disperses drug dealers and junkies and cleans up the estate as best he can, while the police are trying to get the hoodies to confess to the killing.
I didn’t really like the Detective Inspector (Emily Mortimer) as a character, she seemed too timid to work in that sort of environment. The people playing the criminals are also very convincing, and it would be cliché to call the film a “gritty drama”, that’s what it is.
It’s very convincing (aside from Harry’s emphysema – but maybe he just had a light version of it), excellent cinematography, but not a pleasant film to watch; it’s very uncomfortable, raising a lot of important questions about society today. While a vigilante society isn’t something to strive for, sometimes it does seem to be a more efficient solution to the problem. At least on film.
Not the sort of film I’d choose to see, perhaps, but worthwhile nonetheless. Someone should give Caine an award or two for this, if he hasn’t got some already!