Friday, 4 December 2009
Director: Daniel Barber
Writer: Gary Young
Starring: Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, David Bradley
Released: 11th November
Even though Harry Brown stars Michael Caine, one of our greatest acting talents, this is a film that could make you extremely fucking depressed about being British. It starts off slowly, with director Barber showing depressing attention to detail when showing us pensioner Harry Brown's day to day life. Ten minutes in I made a vow to kill myself before I hit 60. Caine pulls off a lonely, sickly old man brilliantly.
Brown's motivations for the inevitable vigilante justice are equally grim - he watches chavs murder his best friend on a cameraphone. Look how modern this film is! Needless to say, the chavs are complete bastards. Anyway, after Caine walks about a grey estate in a manky old man's coat for a bit, the film gets going when he goes to buy a gun. This is the weirdest and easily the best scene in the whole film. The two messed up, drug ravaged dealers make for a brilliantly tense exchange - at one point, one of them puts the barrel of a gun in his own mouth, puts a rock of crack in the chamber and uses the gun as a crack pipe, while Caine just stares, shocked. Brilliant. This scene especially makes Harry Brown seem almost like a horror film, and a lot of the ingredients are there: dark colour palette; quiet LOUD bits; gratuitous violence.
After this, unfortunately, Harry Brown becomes less about Harry and more about the two cops who told him about his friend's death. The woman one in the partnership (Emily Mortimer) suspects that maybe Harry killed those chavs, meanwhile the man one is a dick and doesn't care. With the exception of Mortimer's DI Frampton, the police are callous, ineffectual idiots. She shines in the interrogation scene, despite a chav telling her that he'll stab her with his cock.
Then it all gets a bit weird. The chief of police basically starts a war with everyone on the council estate, and you begin to wonder where they got all those Molotov cocktails from so quickly. The action is good, but just out of place - earlier in the film, DI Frampton warns Harry Brown that "this isn't Northern Ireland, Harry" - referring to his Marines service record - and she's not, the final third of the film is nothing like Northern Ireland. With the run-down tower blocks, riot police and random stuff of fire, it's more like Mega City One in a Judge Dredd comic than actual South London. Despite the murderously Shakespearean climax and vague attempt at morally justifying all the violence, I was disappointed that Harry Brown didn't spend a bit more time on its titular character, who was a lot more interesting than lots of other things that Barber throws in.