Review: Harry Brown (2009)

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Review by Monkey Fist
SCUM Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Harry Brown (Michael Caine) is an elderly ex-marine who lives a lonely life in a decaying estate in London. After suffering the loss of his wife who has been in a coma for some time, he plays chess with his best friend Len (David Bradley) at a local pub. Len tells Harry about the harassment he’s been suffering from the lads who post dog-poo and lit newspapers through his letter box and describes how fearful the experience has made him feel. He shows Harry a bayonet that he carries to protect himself and his desperation has been made worse by the fact that the police are unable to provide any form of assistance.

Shortly after, Detective Alice Frampton (Emily Mortimer) informs Harry that Len has been killed by one of the local gangs and then, on a second visit adds that it might not be possible to make a murder charge stand because the gang could argue that they acted in self-defence as Len was carrying his bayonet. The police interview some gang members including their leader, Noel Winters (Ben Drew), but soon have to release them again. Following Len’s funeral, Harry’s threatened at knife-point by a thug who tries to rob him. On the spur of the moment, his old marine training takes over and he kills the assailant. This is a significant turning point because since he’d completed his military service in Northern Ireland, Harry had kept his most distasteful memories buried deep inside him. This sudden resurrection of his old skills and instincts then leads him on a violent trail of vengeance.

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This film feels very much like having all the best elements from classics like Death Wish, Gran Torino, Taxi Driver and Death Sentence all intertwined into one! First-time director Daniel Barber’s use of hand-held cameras and editing make some of the action sequences very compelling and the pacing of the early part of the film is successful in enabling Harry Brown’s lifestyle and character to be introduced in a way which is both simple and effective. Ben Drew did a brilliant job as the detestable gang leader who exemplifies perfectly the way that most people see thugs like Noel Winters, who’s completely devoid of any remorse, decency, respect or concern for the victims of his actions.

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Michael Caine was great. His portrayal of a man weighed down by the sadness and despondency was spot-on. From the early stages of the film, we could feel Harry’s pain as he grapples with life without his wife , the loss of his only companion and how he is driven to bloody vengeance out of sheer desperation. Emily Mortimer played a credible role as a police officer who is sensitive and much more tuned-in to what’s going on than her superiors.

The atmosphere of this piece is grim, bleak and pessimistic and the impressive cinematography play an important part in contributing to the overall mood.

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About The Author

Monkey Fist’s fascination with film began in the late ‘70s when he was first introduced to B-classics such as 'The Car', 'Konga' and 'The Incredible Melting Man'. Life might have been very different if he had heeded his mom’s advice to read Enid Blyton novels instead. Seriously, he’s just glad he didn’t! Instead, a lot of time was spent checking out the latest flicks in local theaters or getting updates from the 'Movie News' mag. It wasn’t long before he delved into Japanese anime and Tokusatsu gems like Voltron, Gatchaman and Kamen Rider. Today, he continues exploring and collecting classics from the reel world!

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