Harry Brown


Directed by: Daniel Barber
Written by:Gary Young
Starring: Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, Charlie Creed-Miles, David Bradley, Iain Glen, Sean Harris, Ben Drew
Released: May 20, 2010
Grade: A-

Gran Torino.  Some people think it’s one of the best films they’ve seen.  Some think the complete opposite.  I know there are plenty of films which divide audiences but for whatever reason, I’ve found myself caught up in many debates regarding Gran Torino.  I even had one today at work.  For the record, I didn’t like the ending and I didn’t buy into Clint Eastwood’s “transformation”.

If those comments inspire more rage from the pro-Torino camp, I now have something new to retaliate with.  I speak of Harry Brown.  It’s the film that Gran Torino should have been.  It has a likeable “hero”, a more probable ending and it paints a realistic, yet gloomy picture of the slums in London.  This is the first full length feature from English director Daniel Barber (one of his short films earned an Oscar nomination in 2007) and he’s a guy I’ll be following in the near future.

The title character is an elderly gentleman living in a rundown housing estate in East London.  It’s a depressing place.  Across from his building is a tunnel where a gang of teenagers congregate and deal drugs.  Harry sees them every day from his window.  These kids do all of this in plain sight.  It’s as if the police don’t even care.  Nothing is being done to stop them.

That’s about to change.  Harry’s best friend, a fellow pensioner named Leonard, tries to stand up to the gang after months of continual harassment.  They beat Leonard and then stab him to death with a huge knife.  Two police detectives are investigating the crime but they’re not having much luck.  All the gang members are keeping quiet and there were no other eye-witnesses.

Harry knows what happened though.  The time has come for this ex-marine to dish out his own brand of vigilante justice.  As the saying goes – one should fear the man who has nothing to lose.

He may be 77 years of age but Michael Caine is as good as he’s ever been.  Over the past decade, he’s delivered a string of memorable performances in films including Last Orders, Children Of Men, The Prestige and the new Batman movies.  He’s a class act and I never get tired of hearing his familiar British accent.

Caine’s performance is key to the success of this movie.  He does a wonderful job playing the tired, worn out Harry.  You’ll find yourself cheering for him right up to the final scenes (despite the illegality of almost everything he does).  I certainly was.

Things get a little far-fetched at the end but I’m still keen to recommend this film… particularly to those who disliked Gran Torino.