Directed by: Daniel Barber
Countries & Regions: United Kingdom
Length: 99 mins
Region: Region 2
Released: 22 March 2010
Cat No: LGD94206
Hard of Hearing Subtitles: English
Screen ratio 1:2.35
Dolby Digital 5.1
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Also available on Blu-ray
Gritty British thriller starring Michael Caine. Harry Brown (Caine) is a widowed ex-serviceman living a quiet, modest life on a London... Read More
Pauline Kael labelled Dirty Harry as a ‘right-wing fantasy [that is] a remarkably single-minded attack on liberal values’. Her key term for the movie – and for films like it, such as Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs – was ‘fascist medievalism’. Undoubtedly, Kael would have had problems with Harry Brown, the debut film from director Daniel Barber (whose only previous work is a short adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s The Tonto Woman).
Michael Caine plays the titular hero, a character Caine has already described in interviews as the kind of man Jack Carter might have grown to be, if he’d met the right woman and settled down on an estate that gradually turned to the bad. Newly widowed, Harry Brown spends his days avoiding the nearby subway (from which we hear the boom-boom-boom of Old Skool classics) and playing chess in the local boozer with his mate Len (played by David Bradley, most famous these days for playing Argus Filch in the last half dozen Harry Potter movies). When Len comes a cropper at the hands of a bunch of feral kids, Harry takes the law into his own hands and enacts OAP vengeance.
A companion piece, then, of sorts to both Eden Lake and Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino (although if the climax of Gran Torino could be said to provide intellectual satisfaction, Harry Brown treads a different course, providing emotional satisfaction if that is indeed what you are looking for), and a film that is likely to inflame debate in the media from a host of conflicting viewpoints. If you’re of the ‘look, we all need to try and understand the underclass not vilify them’ school, there will be much in Harry Brown to dislike. If you’re of the ‘that’s all well and good, you don’t have to bloody live near them’ school, you may find yourself rooting for Harry to sort out the villains good and proper.
The danger of debate such as this, though, is to overshadow the many merits of the film as a purely cinematic experience. Harry Brown looks great, for example, and early scenes (in which Caine rises from his bed looking every one of his 76 years) are mesmerising in their quiet exactitude, thanks for which must go to cinematographer, Martin Ruhe (who is probably best known for his work on Anton Corbjin’s sublime Control). The supporting cast are uniformly excellent although particular mention must be made of both Emily Mortimer (who plays a Detective Inspector with an equal and largely opposite moral view) and Sean Harris (the rat-faced Bob Craven from Red Riding) who stars opposite Caine and Emmerdale’s Joseph Gilgun in one of the film’s most heart-in-mouth scenes.
Bleak and unremitting as all hell, much as Eden Lake was, Harry Brown is both urgently contemporary (you can guarantee, there will be arguments about this film the length and breadth of the country) and curiously old-fashioned (tipping its hat to the likes of Death Wish with the almost-running joke subway climax of the film). If you can divorce yourself from the politics and view the film as a Western archetype, in which the goodies do battle with the baddies, you’ll have a whale of a time. If ‘fascist medievalism’ isn’t your cup of tea, probably best to steer clear…