Thursday, 20 May 2010
FILM REVIEW: HARRY BROWN
Icon Film Distribution
Harry Brown is being marketed as the British equivalent of Gran Torino and, hey, when that film – about a grumpy, bigoted old man with a penchant for guns – can take $15 million at the Australian box office (and somehow be voted #1 on the At The Movies movie poll for 2009), why wouldn’t you?
There are similarities between the films, beginning with the lead actors: in Gran Torino, it was Clint Eastwood (who also directed); playing Harry Brown is Michael Caine. Both men, now in their 70s, exude a certain kind of cool, a legacy of their younger days and the characters they played, before Eastwood became an Oscar-winning director and Caine an Oscar-winning actor and a knight.
Eastwood’s Walt Kowalski was an elderly version of his Dirty Harry character, whose bigotry was supposed to be taken lightly, especially given his Messianic sacrifice at film’s end. Caine’s Harry is ex-military but he sealed that life in a box labelled ‘never to be opened’ when he married.
But the housing estate where he and his recently deceased wife made their home has gone to the dogs, the animalistic thugs and drug runners who terrorize all who live there. It’s when Harry’s best mate is murdered by these thugs that he decides enough is enough and dusts off his military know-how.
The violence escalates, as Harry goes on a rampage of sorts and the local yoofs retaliate. There’s an inevitability to the ending which one could view as positive (certainly not happy) although it ultimately begs the question ‘what was the point?’ (and you know I’m a stickler for a point!).
Seeing Michael Caine kicking ass certainly has its appeal but director Daniel Barber seems to have constructed his entire film around it at the expense of a stronger story. A bit more for the talented Emily Mortimer to work with would have been nice. She plays DCI Frampton who suspects Harry Brown may not be your average pensioner.
As it is, Harry Brown the movie, is a slightly above average vengeance drama held aloft by Caine's central performance. It's much grittier and violent than Gran Torino, and take that as you will. Not being a fan of the Eastwood film, I suppose it's a compliment; I certainly prefer Harry to Walt.
NOTE: The winners of the 5 in-seasons to Harry Brown, thanks to Icon Films, are: Boswell Designs, Bosh, Jrod, A. Smith and MFlanagan. Congratulations!