Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Harry Brown (2010)


After the death of his last remaining friend, widower, and veteran, Harry Brown (Michael Caine) takes it upon himself to track down the killers, one of the many local gangs, and gain vengeance. Meanwhile new Detective Frampton (Emily Mortimer) struggles to balance the violent territory she's been assigned to, and her moral nature.

Frampton: "It's not Northern Ireland Harry."
Harry: "No, it's not. Those people were fighting for something; for a cause. To them out there, this is just entertainment."

We all know the old quote: "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." So, what happens when good men finally do something? What happens when to do something means to become one of those evil men? While Harry Brown never goes as far as it dares, that's the very sort of question it presents. Harry might be our lead, and exacter of revenge, but he's hardly the film's moral heart.

Harry is a killer, in the most barbaric sense. Showing no mercy, or sorrow, Brown enacts a carefully planned out vengeance. Yet at the same time, Harry isn't a superhero. Much like Walt Kowalski of Gran Torino (a film which can be said to parallel this one on some level), he can only do what his body, aging and frailing, will allow. Though of course when you have a gun, and some distance, what your body will allow, plays less of a role, than how well you can aim.

Throughout the film Harry and Frampton battle wits, morality, and their own foes (including themselves). Michael Caine, whom I've always loved, delivers a strong performance, while Mortimer continues to show she has the talent for more pristine roles. The two match talent, and in that element the film prospers. Helping to give the supporting cast of characters, of whom are more filled out than one might expect, a stage to show their strengths.

On the whole, Harry Brown, both character and film, are quite well intentioned, and worthy of your time, and thought. Still, there's a handful of little things that irked me along the way. The movie is cautious, calculating, and slow in setup. A great strength for setup when the gets get going, but tedious while being sat threw. As well I felt at times if the lead characters were being forced into one dimensional shells, even though the film had taken the good time to keep them well fleshed out.

These things hardly make it a bad film, just keep it shy of that greatness it could have easily achieved.

While many films would shy away from their grittier elements, in favor of more mainstream appeal, Harry Brown embraces its dark side, to powerful results. Built upon the steady foundation of Michael Caine's performance, Harry Brown glows, as much as it dims. All to present a well told story, in a new age fashion. Giving heart, and taking it, as need be.

4 better thoughts:

Andrew Robinson said...

glad to see you liked it.... but cmon, tell me you were like me and eventually started making fun of the fact that our hero was an 80 yr old man who couldn't run faster than his walker could take him.

The Mad Hatter said...

It might be shy on greatness, but it still achieved a 7.5 out of 8 on the Equinoxometer! Sign of a good bit of filmmaking if ever there was one.


I agree for the most part but had a few more issues with the whole concept of the film, so in short, I will shamelessly plug my review blog and hope you check out my full review of Harry Brown here:

Japan Cinema said...

Thanks! I was on the fence about getting this the other night and you made my decision for me :)

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