It’s tense, oozing and cringe-inducing. The emotional stench is like a festering wound. Yet still you can’t stop watching and rooting for the man who has nothing left.
Michael Caine plays Harry Brown, seemingly, quiet shy man dealing with his dying wife, whom he visits every morning at the local hospital ward. He’s made it a routine to visit her and then play a game of chess at his local pub, with an old friend. The two, aging and feeling marginalized by their changing neighborhoods, recognize that extreme violence, drugs and general low-life thuggish criminality is plaguing their once quaint, elderly people estate. Doped up families and two-bit hustlers, rapists and gang bangers, most none over the age of 19, stalk the neighborhood with nothing better to do. Random gun-runners and drug dealers have taken over their pubs, streets and even parks where mothers stroll with their babies. The delinquents terrorise the unwitting innocents and of course, the elderly – dealing their drugs out in the open, as children look on.
Harry’s friend, Leonard Atwell, tells him of the harrassmen he has been subjected to and he’s gone to the authorities but to no avail. Leonard is about to explode in rage at any moment. Harry knows it. Leonards rage has some fatal consequences, leaving Brown to pick up the pieces after a series of murders have ruined his sense of calm.
The secret revealed (but not a spoiler): Harry Brown is an ex-Marine with razor sharp senses that he’s kept under lock and key since his days in the Northern Ireland civil war. Just like ’70s cult followings of Dirty Harry and Mr. Majestyk, Harry’s out for avengement. And he is not afraid to sweep up the charred bits of filth.
The film is grim, sinister, startling – even the creepy heroin fiends he encounters play their side parts so real it is hard to separate fact from fiction.
Harry Brown is testament to the troubled backstreets of London’s forgotten people, and those with no shame about their addictions and afflictions.
There are no winners in this film.
Harry Brown is directed by Daniel Barber, written by Gary Young. Emily Mortimer [Paris Je T’aime, Shutter Island] is Detective Alice Frampton, as a supporting actress to Caine’s Brown.