Harry Brown (18)

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The ViewBirmingham Review

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Review byMatthew Turner12/11/2009

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 103 mins

Well made, gripping British thriller with a terrific central performance by Michael Caine, though the reliance on caricature, overwhelming bleakness and reactionary overtone won't work for everyone.

What's it all about?
Directed by Daniel Barber, Harry Brown stars Michael Caine as, you've guessed it, Harry Brown, an ex-military pensioner whose life is blighted by a group of feral hoodies (including Ben Drew, Jack O'Connell, Lee Oakes and Jamal Downey) who hang around the underpass on his London estate. When his best friend (David Bradley) is murdered, the police (Emily Mortimer and Charlie Creed-Miles) can't prove the hoodies did it, so Harry decides to take matters into his own hands, with predictably violent results.

The Good
Caine is terrific as Harry and the script is careful to keep him grounded in reality rather than transforming him into an all-guns-blazing action hero; you're constantly aware that Harry won't be able to outrun his adversaries if it comes to a chase. There's also strong support from Eden Lake's Jack O'Connell as the most sympathetic of the hoodies (not that that's saying much), whilst Ben Drew is chilling as the gang's leader and Sean Harris delivers a superbly slimy cameo as a gun and drug dealer.

Making his directorial debut, Barber handles the action scenes well and orchestrates some extremely tense sequences, such as Harry's meeting with Harris' character. In addition, the dialogue is excellent, though the filmmakers can't resist chucking in the occasional action-movie-style one-liner, e.g. Caine intoning, “You have failed to maintain your weapon” as he blows someone away.

The Bad
That said, the film isn't entirely without flaws. Emily Mortimer's not terribly convincing as a supposedly tough police detective and the script relies too heavily on caricature in the case of both the hoodies and the police. Similarly, the reactionary plot occasionally feels like a Daily Mail reader's wet dream, whilst the relentless bleakness of the estate (complete with what seems like gratuitous rioting) tips the film into futuristic nightmare-vision-of-Broken-Britain territory rather than a recognisable portrait of contemporary London.

Worth seeing?
If you can get past the reactionary overtones of the plot, Harry Brown is an impressively directed, frequently gripping British thriller that's worth seeing for a terrific performance by Michael Caine.

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Harry Brown (18)
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Content updated: 21/05/2019 18:37

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