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Michael Caine's role as Jack Carter in 1971's Get Carter became a benchmark for all British action heroes that followed. His portrayal of a tough, no nonsense, hard living character, single minded in his quest for justice for a murdered brother became almost genre defining.
Fast forward the best part of 40 years and we find an older, greyer but no less intense Caine returning to our screens as Harry Brown, an ex-serviceman pensioner with a hospitalized wife trying to live out his twilight years on a tough, rundown council estate. Feral youths stalk the streets in packs, openly dealing drugs and picking off their prey as the whole area threatens to descend into anarchy.
Unfortunately for Harry the quiet life is brutally torn from his grasp as the chance to be with his wife as she passes away is denied to him due to the unsafe streets he lives in, pushing him closer to the edge. The murder of his friend Leonard and the subsequent inactivity of the local police prove to be the final straw and lead Harry to take matters into his own hands.
The film also sees Ben Drew, better known as hip-hop and soul artist Plan B, turn in an excellent performance as gang leader Noel Winters, Browns chief antagonist and Emily Mortimer as Detective Inspector Alice Frampton who begins to suspect that Harry might not be the frail , elderly law-abiding citizen that he first appears to be.
Whilst not quite a reprisal of one of his most famous roles, there are certainly echoes of Jack Carter as Caine begins his relentless pursuit of his quarry, determined to dish out his own brand of violent justice.
Although well into his 77th year, Sir Michael Caine proves there's certainly life in the old dog yet.
I was in a strange position when I watched Harry Brown as the first time I saw it I was by myself and in the dark as my husband was at work and the second time was the following afternoon and with my husband. Both times it seemed almost as though I watched a very different movie. The first movie is graphically violent with extreme moments of tension. The second movie is a carefully crafted exploration on age, masculinity and entrapment.
The storyline is fairly simple. Michael Cain plays Harry, a man wrecked with grief from the death of his wife and murder of his friend by the local thugs. He decides to take his revenge out on said thugs in a completely brutal and vivid way whilst in communication with the police and their predictably useless investigation.
We first see Harry as a man of a different generation, with a very different ideal of masculinity than is displayed by the thugs in his area. This is a man who is disciplined, both physically and emotionally. The type that lives his life with a quiet dignity. But he is also old and knows his limitations. Knowing the youths of his area will do their best to unnerve him as he goes to visit his dying wife he chooses to walk around them, despite the extra time it adds to his journey. This is especially poignant given her lack of time left on the planet and there is a sense that Harry is angrier with himself for being so cowardly than at the youths. Part of this is, what I think, the reason for such a violent turn around. It is the death of his friend that ignites the building pressure as Harry, in his own unique and disciplined way takes his revenge.
The local youths seem a counterpoint to Harry's dignified and respectful nature. I found them to be exaggerated caricatures of typical teenage hoodlums. Drug taking, gun owning little boys running around trying to scare others into thinking they are men. Whose ideal of masculinity is to be powerful around the powerless. And then you have the downright dirty junkies who you can almost smell the rankness of. Yes they have issues, but it is difficult to be sympathetic to all but one, who is obviously being horribly sexually abused.
What is most interesting about this film, besides the excellent production values and the superb acting of Michael Cain, and indeed the rest of the cast, is the idea of how our constraints are created in our mind. Harry, being ex military, was always capable of self-defence even though it took two tragedies close together to bring this side of him out again. The youths are capable of change even though they see themselves stuck in an estate for life and as such become so. The prisons we live in are only created by us. Ultimately this is a brilliant film. It is evocative, violent, beautiful, tragic and everything a good film should be.
Harry Brown, in which Michael Caine plays the titular pensioner who seeks revenge when thugs kill his best friend, gets off to a great start. After we witness a naive gang member shoot a mother walking her child through the park (all filmed in 'happy-slapper cam' on a mobile phone, making it all the more disturbing), we cut to ex-marine Brown living his lonely existence in a run-down estate.
Out of his window he sees the local hooligans causing mayhem, yet he turns away, afraid, helpless to do anything. As an opening, it both grabs hold of you and efficiently paints a picture of a man trapped in his own environment.
However, when both his wife and best friend die in the same week, Brown snaps and goes on a rampage against those responsible for his friend's murder.
Smartly, director Daniel Barber doesn't portray Brown as a straightforward good guy - he gives out retribution as cold-bloodedly as Caine did as Jack Carter some 38 years ago.
It's also admirable that the hoodies aren't initially black and white villains either. We are given hints as to why these troublesome youths are so troubled; one has a father in prison, while another, Marky, has a history of sexual abuse.
Yet, just when you think Barber has displayed his moral compass, he throws it to the floor and smashes it into tiny little pieces. Any sympathy we are made to feel towards these council estate criminals is quickly dispelled as each one is dispatched of in the harshest way possible.
It's as though Barber originally envisioned them as tragic products of their environment, but then thought 'oh to hell with it' and shot scenes like where Marky is blasted in the face in the most callous way imaginable.
There are times when violence can add something to a film, lending it a realism that is predominantly absent in the spate of bloodless Hollywood blockbusters we get these days. Yet here it feels like Barber is enjoying the bloodletting a little too much, causing the more 'talky' scenes to suffer. His work ethic on the film apparently was getting the dialogue scenes out of the way so he could get back to killing people.
It's because of this that much of the film feels like an exploitation flick mixed with a TV drama - in between all the time we spend with Emily Mortimer and Charlie Creed Miles, playing do-gooder cop characters which seem to have been lifted from The Bill, we have Brown slaying chavs in the most gruesome way possible.
And believe me, it gets very gruesome. One scene sees Caine impale a drug addict's hand onto a table with a knife. In another, we see an injured young crim with blood gushing from his freshly-shot neck.
It's all a very strange combination, a mixture of straightforward drama and gritty revenge fantasy.
What's most grim, though, is that the excellent cast is almost entirely wasted. 'This Is England's Joe Gilgun brings a heaping of sleaze to his drug-addled gangster, while Jack O' Connell displays genuine emotion in an under-written hoodlum role. Unfortunately, neither of them last very long. Similarly, the impeccable character actor Liam Cunningham spends much of the time behind a bar polishing glasses, waiting to say a line. Just when he finally gets to speak, Caine mopes out of shot, leaving Cunningham behind to wait for the climactic scene in which he briefly gets to show off his acting skills.
It's fortunate, then, that we spend most of the film's running time with the ever-brilliant Caine. If there's ever anything wrong with a Michael Caine film, there is a guarantee that at least one aspect of it will be good: Michael Caine.
A pensioner that lovingly dotes on his dying wife that by night gets revenge on neighbourhood gangsters by cold-bloodedly slaughtering them? It's a difficult role to pull off convincingly, yet Caine somehow manages it, remaining a towering presence throughout, see-sawing from teary, vulnerable old man to fuming harbinger of doom. It's a rare thing to see a septuagenarian actor continuing to improve with each performance.
Unfortunately, Sir Michael isn't quite enough to save 'Harry Brown'. The film often drags and could have done with an extensive editing session, while we spend far too much time in TV-police-drama-land with Mortimer and Creed-Miles' driven, by-the-book detectives striving to 'solve the case' when we already know everything.
Many critics have compared Harry Brown to Gran Torino - they're half-right. Although the two adhere to the same central story - a widowed man is driven to revenge when local thugs threaten his way of life - the central theme of the two couldn't be more different.
The message in Eastwood's film is to overcome prejudice and learn forgiveness. Harry Brown's message is one that mars most revenge flicks: violence equals justice.
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Harry is an elderly man who lives on a very rough estate in London, his wife is sick in hospital and he has to make his journeys there on foot. The gangs of the estate make his journey longer as they spend their time in the underpasses taking drugs, mugging people and fighting. After his wife dies Harry turns to best friend Len for support but he too is having problems of his own. The gangs are bothering him and making his life hard, he has had letter bombs through the door and they verbally attack him whenever he goes out. Len tells Harry that he is going to get his revenge but unfortunately this does not go to plan and he ends up being murdered.
Harry was once in the Marines and knows how to shoot and defend himself so he decides he is going to avenge the death of his best friend. When the gangs start getting attacked the police are at a loss as to who is behind it but can Harry take them all out before he gets caught or will the gangs win overall?
This is a film which has interested me for some time but I have never managed to talk hubby into watching it, fortunately it was my film choice time so he had no choice but to sit and watch. He did actually end up saying that he thought it was excellent and would definitely have no problems in recommending it to anyone. The storyline was fantastic and even though Harry was of an elderly age it was still very believable. I think the fact we got to know of his military background helped a lot. The way the film was shot also made it seem more of a documentary at times than an actual film.
Michael Caine took the lead role of Harry Brown and he did a superb job with the character. He really bought Harry to life and gave us a good understanding of the way he thought and acted on things. I loved seeing the emotion he bought to the role as this made him more human. The way he dealt with the gang members was fantastic and how basic the fights and guns were was what really made me get into the film and believe what I was seeing. The appearance of Harry was good but I did have to comment on how much older Caine looks now but he has gained a little weight and he does look better for it. He portrayed his illness well and I loved how he was not a doddering old man but one of strength and emotion. He seemed at ease working with the guns and younger actors and I thought the gun did actually suit him.
We had some very good support actors in the film and as this is a British film I enjoyed the fact that they were all our home grown talent. Some of the looked familiar from other small parts in television series but some were new and I think they will have a bright future. Some of the actors included, Emily Mortimer, David Bradley, Iain Glen and Lee Oakes.
This is a very violent film and the way this was handled and show to us was very graphic at times, there were a few scenes when I had to look away as I found it a little too disturbing to watch but this just shows the lengths the producers went to making this film so real. There were some very good special effects and they were not overly done so they looked natural and fitted well into the story. We also had some other issues touched upon including abuse and drugs and they were also handled and shown well but I did not enjoy seeing all of them. I don't think the film would have been as powerful if these issues had not been included as they did help to show what Harry was fighting for and against and just how bad places can get at times.
The sets and scenery for the film were all pretty dull but this was not a problem as it helped with the setting of the council estate, I am glad it was based here and not on a posh estate with a load of chavs as the gang members as it would not have worked as well. The costumes did not need very much attention as they were normal everyday clothes as this film is set in the present day. The soundtrack was not one which really stood out for me and I don't know if this is a good or bad thing. The fact that it blended well must have helped as this film is one which I will be forgetting about for a very long time.
I am only reviewing the film so there are no DVD extras to speak about. The film has a running time of 103 minutes and a rate of 18. I definitely agree with the rate as there are some very delicate and hard to watch issues included. The DVD can be bought for just £5 now in most shops and online.
I am more than happy to give this film the full 5 stars, it was perfect in everyway and seemed so real. Michael Caine bought the character of Harry to life so well and he had me feeling so many different emotions. This film is most definitely worth 103 minutes and £5 of anyone's money.
British council estates aren't considered to be very safe places when there's knob-head Chavs breeding rapidly and causing as much mayhem as they possibly can. Partaking in booze-and-drug fuelled binges, the young men (and women) tend to mug, beat, stab and shoot innocent people just to get a rep. Harry Brown (Michael Caine), as a widowed pensioner living amongst the violence of the neighbourhood, however, has had enough, and decides one day to stand up to it all when one of his close friends is murdered.
If you've seen Caine's own Get Carter or Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino then you'll already have a good idea of what to expect from Harry Brown. This film is actually a cross between those two, with a touch of Man On Fire, Death Wish and any other revenge/vigilante flick you can think of thrown in there for good measure. It's hardly a work of art in terms of storyline, but Barber's gritty and threatening atmosphere really grabs you from the off, and there's always a sense of anticipation for what brutal act Caine's character or the main Chav of the group (Ben Drew/Plan B) is going to perform next.
Admittedly, being that this is also an examination of a hopeless generation that is spiralling out of control, the various moments of confrontation feel incredibly authentic, and may therefore be too disturbing for some. A particular scene where Harry knocks on the front door of a known gun/drug dealer "wanting to do some business", for example, spirals into extreme seediness when a young female is seen lying unconscious with a needle hanging out from the veins of her arm.
Perhaps the most appealing aspect of such instances, though, comes from the fact that I'm British, myself, and have encountered the crumbling nature of nearby council estates throughout my upbringing (maybe not quite to the extent of seeing someone OD'ing on heroin, but I'm hoping you get the point). Screenwriter Gary Young's kids are detestable animals living in a lawless, dead-end corner of society, and there's more than a hint of sociology here to convince us (if we didn't think so already) that something drastic needs to be done to clean up the streets. Emily Mortimer, as the sympathetic police lieutenant, is also an interesting watch, allowing us to see things from the perspective of the law.
Of course, having an aging pensioner going round killing juvenile delinquents isn't the answer to Britain's problems (is it?); with that said, though, I can't deny that I really enjoyed every minute of this film. The sight of Michael Caine, one of Britain's most recognisable and respected actors, taking it to the scum of the streets is almost fantasyical, but it never stems too far from reality that it becomes completely ludicrous.
Harry Brown is a film to take pleasure from for its entertainment value, and one to think about later for its hints at broader sociological concerns. Despite his age, Caine is still a monstrous screen presence, proving himself to be one of those rare aging actors who's still capable of bringing the drama in his latter years, making this, a simple story, a cut above the average. Shame the same can't be said for two of my other favourite actors, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, judging by their recent entries in the film cannon.
(C) Andy Carrington, 2011.
Harry Brown was released in 2009 and stars Michael Caine as the titular character and Emily Mortimer as DI Alice Frampton.
This film follows the story of ex marine Harry who lives in a block of council flats in Elephant and Castle, London surrounding by youth violence. Each day on the way to visit his dying wife in the hospital he chooses to take the long route rather than going via the drug and gang invested underpass. Later in the film a couple of significant events turn the story upside down and Harry is soon after the gangs that terrorise his community and who have brought great suffering.
I live in London and whilst fortunate enough not to see this sort of heinous acts of violence, anyone in London knows that these sort of violent attacks and aggresive situations occur on a far too often basis. This should strike a cord with anyone who lives in a town/city where stories of gangs violently making people's lives a misery. This should also suit anyone who cheers the underdog or receives a sense of satisfaction seeing revenge films.
Michael Caine is unbelievable in his role as a grieving man seeking retribution and vengance. One of the best films I've seen him in and wish he would do more of them! At first I was a little sceptical as I had previously watched Gran Torino with Clint Eastwood (which is another brilliant film which I'd recommend) however any doubts were blown away within five to ten minutes due to the realism in this film as well as the superb acting. Emily Mortimer also deserves praise as the determined humane police detective.
As well as the lead's acting, this film wouldnt be as satisfying without the glorious acting of the supporting young actors portraying the evil gangs. They create dislike and resentment almost immediately and without saying a word sometimes.
This film provokes frustration in the capability and attitude in parts of the British Police Force whilst creating debate over the often ridiculed British 'Justice' system. The film topicises many frequently argued points about all of what is wrong with the 'youth of today'.
Daniel Barber's debut film receives a 7.4/ 10 rating on imdb.co.uk if thats anything to go by. Surprisingly however the film grossed only a fifth of it's budget - hopefully over time this film will prove to be a classic.
Director: Daniel Barber
Writer: Gary Young
Duration: 97 mins
Michael Caine as Harry Brown
Emily Mortimer as DI Alice Frampton
Charlie Creed-Miles as DS Terry Hicock
David Bradley as Leonard Attwell
Harry Brown was one of those films I really didn't fancy watching, but decided to give it a go before making my mind up about it. I'm so glad I decided to watch it as I believe this film will be a classic. A gritty film, with no pretention, its British film at its best and it stars one of the all-time greats, Michael Caine.
The film follows Harry Brown, a retired marine who leads a lonely and unfulfilling life. His wife has passed away and it seems he has no family to visit him. His only company is long term friend Leonard Attwell, who he enjoys playing chess with and drinking at their local pub. Harry and Leonard live in a poor area with crime high and seemingly committed by youths who terrorise the neighbourhood. Harry is keen to look the other way and to stay out of sight but Leonard is becoming increasingly agitated by the situation and decides to start carrying a weapon around with him for self-defence. Soon in to the film Leonard loses his life to the local teenage gang, and Harry quickly turns to violence himself in order to avenge his friend's death and bring order to the area. Whether or not that is what he achieves is another matter.
The film stars Michael Caine and he really delivers in this role. He is believable as a vulnerable elderly man but just as much so as the violent man trying to avenge a friend's death. The film surprisingly for me starred Plan B (Ben Drew), and as I wasn't aware of this before I sat down to watch it, I hadn't made any assumptions regarding his acting skills. Plan B really caught the essence of the film for me, and portrayed the lead member of the gang. The acting throughout really was top notch, and before I knew it, this film was over. I would happily sit down and watch it again, although I would have to be in the mood beforehand as it is extremely violent and graphic in some places, with scenes of torture and brutality throughout.
Caine's success in this film, was likely in some part to have been down to the similarities in character to Harry Brown, as they have both served military time, and Caine is also reported to live near to where the film was set. The film for me caught the fear of the country at the moment with teenage gangs, knife crime and violent behaviour portrayed in the media most days.
I thoroughly enjoyed this film and it's clear to see why it won The Empire Award for Best British Film in 2010 and was nominated for Best Actor as well as Best Thriller. I would recommend watching the 103 minute film.
Michael Caine is still going strong as he pulls another wonderful performance out of the bag as the vigilante pensioner in this council estate tale of violence and youth crime.
The country's going to the dogs. At least, that's the way it seems in this depressing story about a pensioner who gets so fed up with the youth of today that he decides to get his revenge. Harry Brown is living out his old age in what would be relative happiness if it weren't for the intimidation and violence of the young criminals living around him on the estate. Harry's friend is being bullied by the youths and ultimately a confrontation leads to his death.
Harry is distraught and, whilst trying to deal with his grief, ends up being attacked himself. Fortunately, the old military training kicks in and he ends up killing his attacker. This seems to light a fire under the old man as he sets upon a quest to sort things out and right the wrongs he sees being committed on a daily basis. He does this violently.
A dark tale which at times seems a little far-fetched does keep the viewer involved and truly carries an important message, well worth checking out.
Recently widowed pensioner and ex-decorated Royal Marine Harry Brown (Michael Caine) is abruptly forced to acknowledge the hell that surrounds him. His only friend, fellow pensioner Leonard (David Bradley), is being intimidated by violent local youths and shows Harry the degradation that surrounds their locality. Even their local publican, Sid, is turning a blind eye to the blatant drug-dealing going on in his pub. The estate they inhabit is plagued by aggressive gangs and junkies. Harry is sharply snapped out of his bereavement for his beloved wife when Leonard, driven to take the law into his own hands, is found viciously murdered. The investigating police unit headed by Detective Inspector Alice Frampton (Emily Mortimer) immediately arrest the obvious suspects. However, with no concrete evidence to go on and pressure from her superintendent, Frampton feels powerless to exact justice. Harry, however, is another matter...
Michael Caine, it appears, can now afford to be selective over the work he chooses. In this sense he has faired far better than many of his contemporaries or even those established stars who are his junior by a couple of decades. He is generally celebrated for his iconic moments in films of his early career - "Alfie", "The Italian Job" and "Zulu" - but I feel his greatest moments, occurring almost uninterrupted, have happened since the 1990s. Even commercialized pictures he has clearly picked for the paycheque, like Christopher's Nolan's Batman series, have proven to be surprise critical successes. So, why pick the lead role in an 18 certificate genre that has been thoroughly abused since the 1970s?
On the face of it "Harry Brown" is a basic vigilante movie. Structurally it follows the simple revenge inspired format. It has a few obligatory twists to keep the excitement high in terms of plot and the film's climax, but nothing that breaks with the mould of this type of film. The film's physical backdrop is suitably "kitchen sink" in its ugly hopelessness and the vicious society that prompts the titular character to bear arms is presented with realistic menace. The film's violence is delivered with little compromise, featuring horrendous crimes such as drug-induced prostitution/rape and all the digital voyeurism of "happy slapping" and the like. Despite being realistic in its depiction of a lot of the violence, it is not executed in a documentary style. It certainly has solid elements of the typical lowbrow action film, where you cheer the (anti)hero when he delivers retribution. Harry Brown, himself, is a very sympathetic character. He's a very moral character who despite being justifiably proud of his military service and achievements is modest about his background, preferring never to discuss the action he has seen. Harry Brown is no Travis Bickle from "Taxi Driver". He is a very straightforward old soldier.
So what sets this apart from something like say "The Punisher: Warzone"? To start with it's set in the gritty underbelly of urban inner-city council estates rather than around the glamorous world of high level organized crime. However, this is just the nature of British film-making. We only have to compare our soap operas with our American counterparts to understand that UK drama is more concerned with the working classes whereas the US prefers to explore the lives of those with above average incomes. Nevertheless, "Harry Brown" uses this environment continually throughout the film to reinforce idea of an environment that traps its victims and feeds its parasitic human vermin. Periodically we are shown a landscape view of the area Harry and his enemies live in, usually at night. We then see places they inhabit and the corridors where the criminals stalk their prey. The villains are archetypical - a desperate junky, drug-dealers and gang-members - but accurate in their depiction. The rise of recreational crime is aptly described when Harry argues the difference between the enemies he fought whilst serving in Northern Ireland and those on his estate: "Those people were fighting for something; for a cause. To them out there, this is just entertainment".
Rather than looking at corruption from the policing perspective, "Harry Brown" delivers a more complex frustration. Firstly there is the general apathy created by the familiarity most police officers feel about the crime on Harry's estate, as the violent reign passes from father to son. This is represented in the character of D.S. Terry Hicock. Then there is policy to assuage public fear regarding gun crime and drugs on the whole rather than taking a more individualized approach to the actual victims. All of these frustrations are vented through Alice Frampton who serves as the obligatory good cop reference point most vigilante movies have.
This is what "Harry Brown" does with the film's content. However, it is in its execution that has impressed most critics. Caine is suitably brilliant in the title role. Despite generally being a typical reluctant hero, albeit an aged one, he reflects a good degree of normalcy in his character. His decorated military career makes him a far more believable vigilante character than other pushed-over-the-edge counterparts (think Kevin Bacon in "Death Sentence"), but his tortured mourning for his dead wife and gradual realization of what his friend, Leonard, is telling about the world he is now living is very touching. The film has a strong supporting cast with the singer, Ben "Plan B" Drew putting in a memorable performance as the thuggish Noel and Emily Mortimer puts in some very subtle acting as a personification of the caring side of the police force.
However, it is the way Daniel Barber handles the whole thing that wins my vote. Recently I have found myself reviewing above average formula pictures that are reflective of the low-risk attitude the film industry is adopting due to the pressures of the recession. At the time of writing, the UK has shelved their most successful movie franchise, James Bond, whilst it is on an all-time high (no pun intended) due to budgetary problems. Therefore, it is refreshing to see someone grasp a predictable script and batter it into an impressive piece of art. The scenes are tightly edited. The violence is appropriate and emotive without being gratuitous. The characters more than serve their appointed functions. At a time of playing it safe, some people, namely Caine and Barber, took a secure road vehicle and drove into the woods with skill and nerve.
Good vigilante films are in a very small minority. Before I elaborate on that point and show how it relates to my review of this particular film, I think it might be prudent to define what I mean by a "vigilante film". First off, costumed superhero pictures are not really vigilante films. These films might concern unofficial crusaders who take the law into their own hands, but the dynamic of these characters and their stories is, "Incredible Hulk" actor Edward Norton has pointed out, far more akin to the heroes of ancient mythology. In this respect, I would discount England's most famous mythological vigilante, Robin Hood, although it is not impossible to see a vigilante picture modelled around him. There are also thrillers and horrors that explore the ideas of vigilantism - and in many respects these themes are more in line with than those of the pure vigilante film than the comic-book superhero - but these are additions to the overall nature of the picture rather than the central subject or genre.
The vigilante film is a type of psychological thriller/action movie hybrid. The setting is usually - but not essentially - urban and the lead protagonist is often a complex anti-hero who prompts questions regarding the nature of revenge, personal justice and whether means justify ends. It is a fascinating subject that often resonates with its audience as it touches on contemporary issues relating to the fear of violent crime and justice for victims of crime. It's an evocative them also provokes dark wish fulfilment fantasies in much of its audiences, especially those moved by sensationalist tabloid stories about soft sentencing for violent offenders, police corruption and penalties enacted on individuals who have taken the laws into their hands. Unfortunately the draw of the action movie side of the feature often overtakes any attempt at asking the deep personal questions about the realities of a civilian enacting the type of justice that the baying public fantasize about. The original "Death Wish" did a reasonable job, but its sequels, imitators and even the Kevin Bacon picture, "Death Sentence", became lost in the action sets before they could deliver anything that resembled debating material. "Taxi Driver" is perhaps the most cerebral entry into the whole genre, but there have been few others with its level of ambition.
"The Punisher" franchise - a rare example of a pure vigilante film taken from a comic-book - seems to have failed on three separate attempts, although I argue that a single descent movie could be derived from the films. In the UK, "Outlaw" showed tremendous potential with its flawed lead characters and a brutally honest approach to how civilians tend to act in such situations, but the end result was unsatisfactory. "History of Violence" was a little better and it showed a desire to make a serious film out of the misused genre. In the end Clint Eastwood's apparent acting swansong, "Gran Torino" showed the way. And in this respect "Harry Brown" is the natural successor to these three recent films, on a par with Gran Torino but not quite up to the standards of "Taxi Driver".
Director: Daniel Barber
Category: Vigilante crime thriller
Release date: November 11, 2009
Writer: Gary Young
Running time: 99 minutes approx
Producer: Matthew Vaughn, Kris Thykier, Matthew Brown, Keith Bell
Rating: 18 (Contains very strong language, strong violence, hard drug use and sex)
Distribution: United Kingdom Lionsgate
Screen: Widescreen 2.35:1 Anamorphic
Languages: English - Dolby Digital (5.1)
Subtitles: English for the hearing impaired
Region: Region 2 - Will only play on European Region 2 or multi-region DVD players.
DEATH WISH MEETS GRAN TORINO....ON ENGLISH SOIL
Head of the cast is Sir Michael Caine best known for 'Get Carter' and the 'The Italian Job' he assumes the role of Harry Brown, now personally I think he is one of the most overrated English actors about, however, I thought he was Inspired as Harry and played the role perfectly, arraying a mixture of emotions throughout via thought and visual sense alone, his subtle underplayed nature warmed me to his role of an old man instantly, and in my opinion gave one of the most honest performances I've seen from his good self. His best friend played by David Bradley (Leonard Attwell) holds his own, not a prominent figure, but does his role justice as the frail sidekick. Messrs Frampton (Emily Mortimer) and Hicock (Charlie Creed-Miles), Emily Mortimer I've always liked for her subtle understated performances, very likeable as the DCI, the good cop if you will as underneath the hard ultra professional exterior, you can see she has empathy and a understanding of the situation ahead, Creed-Miles as Hicock is the total opposite, a little care free, with total apathy for the estate's mongrels, you feel his hatred as he willingly berates the mindless youths, an adequate pairing indeed. The rest of the main players you don't really get to know, Ben Drew plays the lead thug violently well, but in truth this sort of film has no real necessity to get to know much about them, they are all white/half cast thugs with one aim in mind to cause havoc and commit crime at any given corner, ultimately brash, in your face type that I don't think you could take home to meet your granny.
South London, a council estate at night we see an initiation of drug taking take place under a subway. It's filmed via a camera phone as to appreciate the sub culture that now takes place on the streets of England. The first few scenes are pretty horrific, not necessarily for the over done graphic violence, but for the mindless nature in which and why its been done. I found it quite disturbing personally, and I like Horror, War and violent films, but this last a nasty feeling in my stomach, and just entered many questions into my head.
Cut away from the first scene and we are introduced to Harry Brown, a former Royal Marine veteran who's life is transforming before our eyes, he looks miserable and life seems to have dealt him a raw hand, his wife is in a coma, and has very few friends to call his own aside from Leonard another elderly gentleman of the violent estate that Harry resides on. We meet Leonard in the local pub owned by Sid where Harry and Leonard like to drink and play chess together, we don't get to know Sid to well at the beginning, but he is partial to the black market and backhanders.
Harry gets some news, which requires him to act fast, but the thugs on this violent estate reside down the subway, which is a short cut through to where he needs to be, the safer option is to go around, but this could have disastrous consequences for Harry.
The story focuses in and around the subway, and the violent offerings it has to anyone that goes near, no matter age, race or sex! Leonard confides in Harry about the goings on, and the suffering he has felt at the hands of these youths, he looks to Harry for help, but how can he?
The next day Harry receives some more bad news from detective's Frampton and Hicock, this time it cuts him even harder, feeling all alone after a day of mourning, Harry gets drunk at the local pub, his actions that night sets the theme for the rest of the movie.
Next, we encounter Harry visiting a drug den, but why? An old man walking into such an establishment is asking for trouble! What's seen inside shocks him, but can he take a stand against what he sees? It's a turning point for Harry, as he strikes lucky for his future quest.
The Violent youths on the estate feel untouchable and fear nobody, they treat the Police with utter contempt and distain, no matter what crimes they commit a way out is always likely, the Police seem powerless and action needs to be taken soon! Arrests are made, but nobodies talking and soon to be back on the streets, as we seem more graphic beatings in broad daylight.
The rest of the film shall be kept secret as not to spoil the real plot behind the picture, but it's violent, graphic entailing in riot's killings and beatings, but who will come out on top? And what will the consequences uphold?
Extended and Deleted Scenes
01 SCENE OF CRIME (3.03)
Extends the opening scene after the shooting has taken place, it gives you a better idea of what actually happened as the film keeps you guessing really, but I don't think it needs to be added, it gives a good insight into officers Frampton and Hicock and their differing personas.
02 LEN AND HARRY AT CEMETARY (53 seconds)
Quite pointless really, very little happens, just shows how frail and saddened the two men are
03 FATHER BRACKEN (3.48)
Again really boring and does not add any credibility to the film, just gives more scope into Harry's demise and how lonely he has become.
04 GHOST WIFE (1.24)
Another cut scene, it delivers nothing really, aside from maybe showing Harry's vulnerable mental state, and his increasing loneliness
05 FRAMPTON'S BACKGROUND (3.46)
Gives more insight into her background, and continues on from the original scene.
06 FUCKING PAEDO (2.29)
Has nothing to do with the film really, probably why it's cut, just gives more insight into the demise of the estate, and the culture we live in.
07 PISSPOOR PERFORMANCE (1.04)
Extended from one of the actual scenes, not much to gage from it so cut.
Music Video - The film also features actor and artist Ben Drew (Plan B) who, with Chase & Status, is also responsible for the film's theme music track "End Credits" - Pretty good song and video, highlighted aspects of the movie throughout.
Audio Commentary - with Michael Caine, director Daniel Barber and producer Kris Thykier - Pretty self explanatory, gives you an added of option of watching the movie with voice over audio from the three gentleman above.
Interview with cast and crew
Michael Caine (7.32)
Emily Mortimer (7.10)
Liam Cunningham (5.53)
Ben Drew (7.55)
Jack O'Connell (6.03)
Daniel Barber (8.24)
They each explain what attracted them to the film, about their own and each others characters, about every day violence in our culture and who is responsible for it! The cast also talk about points of interest and the location where they filmed, and how the movie portrays modern day London.
The extras are minimal, but the interviews with the cast give a good insight into the feeling of the movie and why they took on the roles, fairly interesting but adds very little to the film. The extra scenes are barely worth watching, which is obviously why they were edited from the final shot.
Harry Brown was generally met with positive reviews highlighted the performance of Sir Michael Caine as gripping and emotional. Review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes reports that 66% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 94 reviews, with an average score of 5.9/10. Empire and GQ magazines credited the film as truly amazing. Newspapers News of the World and The Daily Mail, called it 'Brilliant' and a film that really matters. Others were not so appreciative, most notable The Sunday Times who commented, "It's too daft to pass muster as action-movie hokum, let alone as social commentary."
Harry Brown ultimately works on whether its storyline is believable or not, can an elderly man really convince us that he is still capable of violence and murder? We get to know Harry intimately, which is important for the film, as a mild mannered, lonely OAP is transformed into a vigilante, its important for us to believe in the character and to know where he is coming from and what his motives are and why. Caine is subtle in the role and builds up his character throughout, his displays of violence and revenge are often calculated and cautious, which gives more credibility to what we are seeing, and in my opinion makes the film work.
Why does it work? Well mainly because it's not a gun toting, all action extravaganza, it's kind of low key and never too elaborated, the scenes are basic but still gripping, face to face action without the use of computer wizardry or special effects. Daniel Barber delivers a typically British film, which could be compared to an 80s style drama by it's approach and settings.
Snatch, Lock stock and two smoking barrels this isn't, in fairness although the same styled film, it's more under played than Death Wish, it's not about glory, but justice. I think the closest comparison you can make is 'Gran Torino' but again Clint Eastwood's performance in that is believable but also you get the impression it's half about him, and not the cause he is fighting for, in this it's totally different, it's all about justice, which is why the opening scenes and the in depth analysis of the Harry Brown is so important.
Sadly, in this day and age, and with recent events in mind the premise of the story is oh so true, bored youths and young men, craving our streets looking for trouble, stealing, drug taking, and mindless violence. These increasingly common acts are a worrying state of our nation, this story in no way sensationalises or glorifies these acts, but you don't either get to know why such acts would take place, as we never get to know theses thugs in any detail. Where this has to be commended is the fact the violence is all from white youths and a few half casts in a inner city London council estate, it would be so easy to use the obvious coloured candidates which is unfair due to the spiralling influx of white gun crime and murders.
Harry Brown really is hard hitting and knocks you backwards, I love my horror and violent films, but you ultimately know it's a bit of escapism, this is different you know it happens on our streets and personally it sticks in my stomach. To know these acts takes places on our deprived neighbourhoods is quite frankly horrifying, and this down to earth styled film brings it home, but without glorifying anything.
Do I like the film? Well yes on the whole I think its thoroughly engaging and a real hard hitting piece of cinematography, its in no way an epic but if it was it would look out of place, the core of the cast are likeable and believable, and the scenery is dark and uncharismatic. The negatives, well can an elderly gentleman really achieve such results, can we really believe in the storyline? Well perhaps not, but stranger things could happen. Also, I thought the film ended rather abruptly and felt a little let down as the film was really starting to gather pace, but when you think about it logically perhaps it could not go much further. And without giving to much away from the ending, the moralistic aspect of the story perhaps is wrong, fighting evil with evil, does not necessarily make one right and the other wrong, should an act of revenge be exempt from blame or prosecution?
RETRIBUTION OAP STYLIE 6.5 / 10
I'd recommend this, the violence is not graphic but may you may still find some scenes disturbing!
DVD £6.99 / Blu-ray £12.00 ....
We all hear stories about some of the rougher parts of the country to live in. Some of us no doubt have experienced it. What Harry Brown does as a film is try to delve deep into it to see one man's struggle against not only this society but also his own inner demons and his past. Michael Caine stars in a brilliant turn as the title character who decides to take matters into his own hands.
We start off seeing Harry's boring daily routine, which is rather depressing, as he lives in his council flat in a high rise building. He meets his friend for chess and sees his dying wife in hospital, but other than that, there's nothing of note, save for when he contemplates crossing the busy road using the underpass, but changes his mind each time he sees or hears the gang of yobs who inhabit it as a social venue.
The film portrays these yobs as excessive and extreme. Violence with no reason, attacking people randomly, even killing people. These are all things we see them do early on in the film, and led by Noel Winters (Ben Drew aka Plan B) they cause havoc. When this violence is assumed to lead to the death of Harry's friend Len, and the police can do nothing about it, Harry's military background kicks in and he starts to take the law into his own hands.
What the writers and director seem to try and do from here is create a bit of sinister thriller atmosphere where the police (mainly in the guise of D.I. Alice Frampton (Emily Mortimer)) seem to have two problems on their hands. Firstly the violence and issues caused by the yobs, which is mainly circumstantial and guesswork; and secondly the fact that there is someone trying to eradicate their presence. A certain amount of tension is achieved, but it doesn't completely work, and I felt the film continued at a rather slow pace. The tension didn't balance this out enough, and I wasn't glued to the screen, if I'm honest.
The characters are well created, and the tow main head bashers (Caine and Drew) perform their role very well. Caine is particularly good, managing to make the switch from regular old guy to vigilante with enough vehemence whilst keeping the air of an old man who is incredibly nervous and shocked by what he is doing. The facial expression and the hunched over look from him does the job perfectly, while Drew's aggressive and Alpha male stance throughout is unnerving and well filmed.
It's more the scenes where nothing particular is happening that drag somewhat, and the writers almost needed to get Brown to become the vicious and violent type of character he's trying to get rid of. There's not enough ruthlessness and pace in the whole pace in the whole thing, for me, in order for it to continue to develop as a tale as much as I felt it needed to. The detail involved is very good, but just doesn't go that extra little bit is really needs to drive home the message about violence on the street needing to be cleaned up.
There's an impressive finale to the film, and a nice mini scene that puts a bit of closure on the subject, and it's capped off rather well. I want to stress the point that I'm not critical because I didn't enjoy the film - I did. I merely thought it could have been a whole lot better than it was, and that they missed a trick. I know other have been raving about it, but I thought it lacked the intensity it could have nailed with ease. Recommended, but not quite as good as I had hoped.
There are no Hollywood moments in this movie, and that's probably why I love it! Possibly the best movie Michael Caine has ever been a part of.
The director does a truly awesome job of portraying his world with convincing and seedy squalour, almost leaving the viewer feeling soiled by the experience. His characters aren't just overtly filthy scum - they're real and believable scum.
Michael's character shines.
The are no violent rape/murder scenes where his family die at the hands of an outlaw biker gang, no terrorists holding his wife to ransom... just an old boy who has seen too many recent horrors to suffer the indignity of it any more.
From a drunken moment where his old military reflexes kick in with shocking consequence, to the understated twist of a finale, you can't help but feel for this man and see good cause for his actions. He's every bit the tired old serviceman whose plight tugs on every decent fibre until you find yourself snapping along with him.
He's no Rambo, no bullet-dodging arse-kicker on a rampage of revenge, and the action manages to paint well within the lines of plausibility. He ambles into the role with dignity - even if he's moving far too well for someone in his condition (emphazema doesn't just kick in after a ten foot jog - it's not asthma), and the impact of his losses is portrayed with a hopeless sadness that rather makes you want to hug the poor soul than scream "revenge".
I enjoyed this movie rather more than I expected to, and I would highly recommend it. It's neatly understated, with the right blend of pace and action.
Love it. This movie is really well acted, of course Michael Cain is a legend, but the other actors are great too and really make this movie what it is. I think a movie is good when it makes you talk about the topic matter later, whether or not you're supporting the view the movie held or arguing against it and this one will definitely get you thinking.
There are so many levels to this film that make it sucessful and every aspect has been very well thought out. There's the old men in the movie, who get by with a stiff upper lip but don't be fooled into taking them at face value. Cain's character has a history as a marine and is no push over when a bunch of youth's anti-social behaviour gets out of hand.
There is also the council estate which it was filmed on, which I belive is now abandoned and due for destruction. Being an estate, it houses a variety of people, from young to old and it's really about their struggle to get along as a community but also have their own privacy in what can be a fish tank.
This is just a great movie that will have you both mentally and emotionally involved. It's not a feel-good film, but it's intellectual and so polished in it's delivery that you can't help but be impressed.
This film is an interesting concept. A revenge flick with Michael Caine. Let's face it, Mr Caine is getting on in his years, but he's still a good actor. You can't deny that. So it boded well. Admittedly, I bought this on blu ray because I fell for the critics praise. That and it's a British film. The villain is played by Ben Drew (aka Plan B).
Now I need to clarify. When I said its a revenge flick. I might have mislead you a little. What it really is is a justice flick. That is - vigilante justice.
Harry Brown is an elderly man living on a housing estate in what we can only assume is a grotty part of London. The estate is plagued with scum bag hoodies, who take pleasure in harassing, bullying, stealing and vandalising. The film starts with the passing of Harry's wife. Then we discover that Harry's friend Len is being tormented by the hoodies on the estate. He's been to the police, but they were no help. Now he's going to take matters into his own hands. But of course it all goes horribly wrong and these idiots record their violence on their mobile phones, mimicking the genius of real life idiots.
Broken down old, lonely Harry Brown is now the source of justice for the estate. That special kind of vigilante justice that can only be handed out by an old man with three handguns and a past in the marines. The carnage is quite justified and brutal. It's fun to watch because its unexpected. It's clever because it's true. At one point Harry collapses, his body unable to deal with the strain. Michael Caine makes it believable. He acts well as the sad, broken widowers on the war path. The soldier that had been locked away for years, re-emerging to serve justice on a chaotic homestead. When he discovers the evidence of the violence, recorded on a mobile phone, you sit, watching, knowing Harry should take that evidence to the police, but willing him to continue down his path of vigilante justice instead.
The ending is less than plausible, but enjoyable nonetheless.
In the end, its a thoroughly believable and moving film. Well acted and well put together. It simply tells the story of the seedy under-belly of Great Britain and the rough areas that some are unfortunate enough to live in. You feel for the characters, love, hate and much more. Michael Caine is superb. The supporting actors, equally as good. Highly recommended.
This is not Northern Ireland Harry.
No, it's not. They were fighting for something, they were fighting for a cause. To them out there, it's just entertainment.
The extras were disappointing for the money.
-Chase and Status Music Video
== Harry Brown Film Only ==
== Introduction & Details ==
The other night there was nothing on TV and so me and my husband turned to FilmFlex on Virgin On Demand. Considering I chose the last film we watched at the cinema, I said my hubby could choose the film for that night, and he chose Harry Brown, the new British thriller with Michael Cain in the main part of Harry Brown. We had seen it advertised at the cinema last year when we were watching the latest Saw film, and we had said then that it looked like something we would enjoy, and so we picked that one! At £3.95 for a 24 hour rental, it was much cheaper than going to the cinema and even cheaper than going to Blockbuster for a DVD from there.
So we snuggled up on the sofa with the duvet and some snacks and pressed play on the TV remote.
== Plot ==
Harry Brown is an old man (played by Michael Cain) living on a London housing estate. The housing estate has been getting increasingly worse with the young people dealing drugs and randomly attacking people in the streets. Gang war was getting beyond a joke, and the old and vulnerable were at risk of attack every day.
When Harry loses his wife to a battle against a terminal illness in hospital and his best and only friend Len, is murdered by the gangs on the streets, Harry has nobody. And with the increasing crime on the streets, but the police not doing anything to stop it, he takes the law into his own hands, using his ex-Marine knowledge and intelligence to stamp down on the gang members.
But can one man ever make a big difference to the streets of London?
== Opinion ==
I thought this film looked excellent when I saw it advertised at the cinema, and I must say I was not disappointed. I liked the fact that this film dealt with real problems in Britain today- I am lucky enough to live a very long way from any of those issues, I live in a relatively nice town, where although there is crime and "chavs", it is a working class town and there are people on benefits, but I have never seen a used condom on the streets or a dirty needle left in my back alleyway outside my house, but I know it does happen and it does happen not that far from me in Manchester and Liverpool- and I thought this film was brilliant at highlighting the issues and just how hard it is to stop it from happening.
Michael Cain is amazing as Harry Brown, although I was shocked at how old he is now!!! I always think of him in The Italian Job when I think of him, not as a 65+ year old man!
The film is quite gory, though is not a horror film, but does have quite a bit of blood and violence as well as drug use and very bad language.
I think this film is pretty much for anyone, I am a more chick lit person and don't really enjoy American thrillers of the same genre as Harry Brown as I cannot relate to it usually, whereas films like Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, The Italian Job and now Harry Brown I have loved. So I wouldn't like to say "oh this film is for men" or "this film is for thriller lovers", because I don't think that is the case at all, I think it is more a case of, if you think the story sounds interesting, and you don't mind a bit of violence, bad language or gore- then 100% give this film a fair try. I really enjoyed it as did my husband. It wasn't difficult to understand what is going on, and we could even keep up a slight conversation while the film was on and still watched the film and understood it all with no problems which was good as we like to discuss things in the film throughout but many films make it very hard to do that as they are so difficult to understand the plot.
If you enjoyed British films like The Italian Job, Snatch, Lock Stock and two Smoking Barrels, then in my opinion, you'll love this film. Michael Cain is amazing in the main role, and all other characters are brilliant!!!
A huge 10 out of 10 for this film, it is possibly the best thriller I have watched in a long long time! I would most definitely watch it again and recommend it to everyone I know!
== Details ==
The DVD of Harry Brown can be bought from Amazon.co.uk for £10.20 (free P&P).
It is certified as 18 due to the violence, drug and alcohol abuse and sexual references and language.
(film only review)