Harry Brown

Harry Brown
Made in: Great Britain
Language: English
Director: Daniel Barber
Starring: Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, Ben Drew, Liam Cunningham, Charlie Creed Miles, Iain Glen, Jamie Downey, Jack O'Connell, Sean Harris, David Bradley, Lee Oakes
Year: 2009

Synopsis: Retired ex-marine Harry Brown (Michael Caine) is a mild mannered old man who's also a recent widower. He lives in an apartment complex that's largely overrun by scores of drug dealing punks and dope addicts.

Harry and his best friend, Leonard (David Bradley) pretty much live in fear, and spend most of their time talking about how scared they are. At first Harry tries to remain calm and puts his faith in the authorities.

But when a tragic event finally sets him over the edge, Harry decides to take matters into his own hands. All the while, police detective Alice Frampton (Emily Mortimer) tries doing her best to help resolve things in an orderly fashion.

But feeling that enough is enough, Harry rediscovers his former killer instincts, tracks down the young punks who've made his life a living hell, and proceeds to exact his own brand of old-guy justice!

Remarks: With a simple premise and a good range of characters, Harry Brown was on its way to being a tightly written thriller. Acting veteran Michael Caine is the clear standout in this picture, but the surrounding cast does a very good job as well.

The setting and mood of the film are both appropriately dark, and there are moments when Michael Caine truly shines.

Unfortunately, director Daniel Barber tries stretching the story out beyond its limits by inserting a conspiracy element, and simply letting things get a little too out of hand by the final act.

The final confrontation between police and a mob of molotov cocktail wielding druggies doesn't quite fit the realm of plausibility.

Harry Brown should have stuck to just being a straightforward revenge thriller, as the film is at its best when pointed in that direction. The most effective element comes about when Michael Caine, being a marine who's kept his past bottled up for ages, slowly starts baring his soul to each of the evildoers whom he captures. But just as that starts becoming interesting, Barber kills the tension and slows things down.

Emily Mortimer, as a persistent detective, could have had a more useful role as the one suspecting Brown of being behind the vigilante action. But instead, too much of her time was spent on an unneeded element of the story where she butts heads with her superior (played by Iain Glen), who arguably didn't even have to be in the film.

Although very well acted and directed, Harry Brown is ultimately a grim, sloppily constructed story that's only watchable largely because of Michael Caine. You won't be missing much if you don't get around to seeing it.

(2 stars out of 4)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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