Saturday, July 3, 2010

A Movie Review: Harry Brown (2010)

Harry Brown (2010)

Director - Daniel Barber
103 Min; R
Michael Caine – Harry Brown
Emily Mortimer – D.I Alice Frampton
David Bradley – Leonard Attwell

Michael Caine has had a very distinguished career in which the now 77 year old actor has portrayed everything from Horatio in Hamlet (1964) to Jack Carter in Get Carter (1971) to a Dirty Rotten Scoundrel (1988), a pageant-prepper in Miss Congeniality (2000) and Batman’s right hand man Alfred in the newer Batman films. But never has he been a 77 year old vigilante out for justice. Until now, that is, as Harry Brown, a man with such a simple life he should just easily ride it out for 5 more years and pass on, un-noticed, into the afterlife.

Unfortunately for the youth gangs of South London, however, Harry is not going to go gently into that good night – he’s gonna kick some ass and doesn’t care about taking names.

And that, my friends, is the essence of the British film Harry Brown, a film that grabbed me early, held my attention, then tossed me aside like an afterthought as it fell deeper and deeper into an abysmal mess of a cliché. Anybody who is familiar with Gran Torino (2008), a film in which Clint Eastwood puts on his best smile as a war vet who simply wants kids off his lawn (though he’s willing to shoot them to get them off his lawn) will know how Michael Caine feels when, soon after losing his wife, a group of terrorizing youths murder his best and only friend Leonard, and the inept cops simply have no way to pin it on anybody.

There are two main differences that make Harry Brown a better film than Gran Torino: 1) It is British. And British films are slightly better than American films at portraying old men who still have some fire in them. They are more subdued and nuanced, and personal preference for me is with an older Michael Caine. 2) The youths in this film can actually act. Gran Torino was bogged down with terrible (and I mean god-awful, unwatchable, terrible) youth actors. Here we have slightly older kids acting much more like knife-wielding, gun-toting, drug using gang members might act.

And those two points alone make the first one half of Harry Brown a 5-star film. Alas, there was a second half. And in that second half you don’t need to put on 3-D glasses to get any special effects, you simply have to toss out everything you ever knew about reality and suspend all disbelief as 77 year old Harry Brown becomes vigilante extraordinaire as he plows down uncountable lowlife youth scum using all but the kitchen sink, which he very well may have used but would not have been able to lift over his head. The film is worth a see on DVD when it comes out, I suppose, if for nothing else than to compare it to Gran Torino and decide which one you prefer.


*** out of 5

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