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Customer Review

194 of 201 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Caine Goes Where Clint Wouldn't, June 16, 2010
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This review is from: Harry Brown [Region 2] (DVD)
London, The Present: Elderly pensioner Harry Brown lives a largely solitary existence on a sinkhole council housing estate in London where drug dealing and recreational violence are the norm and disaffected hoodie-wearing teenage criminals (or "chavs" as we call them in the UK - a word derived from the acronym of "Council Housed And Violent") treat the ugly concrete canyons as a combination of a playground and the gladiatorial arena. Harry, despite a once prestigious career in the Royal Marines, is an affable, peaceful man who keeps himself to himself; literally going out of his way to avoid confrontation on a daily basis. But when a tragic series of events results in the death of one of his dearest friends, Harry finds himself inexorably drawn onto a collision course with the violent criminal elements that have terrorized the estate.

Harry Brown is not a perfect film, but it is an important one. It's probably the only film that realistically deals with the reality of the plight of the elderly and vulnerable at the hands of what has now become an epidemic of casual violent criminality in the UK. Make no bones about it, the England that you see in this film is far closer to the reality of living in a major British city than the Richard Curtisesque fluff-pieces (such as Love Actually (Widescreen Edition)) that are exported abroad in the hope of drumming up UK tourism. The failure of successive post-war UK governments to deal with an ailing education and law enforcement system has led to the reassertion of almost Dickensian levels of violence, poverty and hopelessness, and, as a British expat now living in Australia, I experienced an old familiar sinking feeling as I observed the frighteningly well-realised portrait of an increasingly dystopian Britain. Take it from one who knows - this is as real as it gets.

The tone of the film itself is an odd mixture of the jarringly realistic and the satirically surreal: the scenes depicting the recreational thuggery of the chavs are frighteningly on-the-money, while the scenes with the buttoned-down, pathologically polite and well-spoken police chief appear to be satirical jabs at authority's completely inability to cope with the escalating social problems of modern Britain. The tone of the film is somewhere between the work of Ken Loach, Death Wish (indeed, this film is far more in keeping with the spirit of Brian Garfield's novel than the original Bronson vehicle) and Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange (Two-Disc Special Edition).

The acting is divided into two camps: Caine has never given a finer performance and the character's mordant sense of quiet sadness and desperation is palpable from the moment that we first see him open his eyes after a restless night. Brown, despite his eventual descent into violence, is never anything but a victim and Caine really does deserve an Oscar for his beautifully judged turn as an Emphysemic everyman caught between a rock and a hard place. Similarly, plaudits must go to the young actors playing the teen criminals, as well as massively underrated UK actor, Sean Harris, for his brief, scene-stealing cameo as an emaciated, homicidal, heroin addict who inhabits a hovel that far surpasses the worst fever dreams of De Quincey. By way of juxtaposition however, Emily Mortimer's performance as a police woman attempting to get to the bottom of the violence dogging the film's sinkhole estate is something of a damp squib. It could be that this is another satirical jab at the "touchy feely" modern metropolitan police force on the part of the director though.

Harry Brown is a film that will divide audiences. I observed an old chap, who sat near me in the cinema, informing the girl at the refreshment kiosk that "the world needs more men like Harry Brown"; Several seconds later, a young, coiffured film studies student who had also been in the screening, and who was clearly acquainted with the same kiosk girl, informed her that "it was a load of simplistic crap". There are many people who will be of the latter opinion and yet more who will write it off as nothing more than a right-wing vigilante wet-dream. Then again, most of the liberal intelligentsia who have already espoused the latter opinion have never had to live in a place where the police turn up mob-handed or not at all. For those of us who have walked a mile in Harry's shoes though, regardless of our opinions on vigilantism, it is not a film that is so easily dismissed.
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Showing 1-10 of 12 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 20, 2010 5:12:51 AM PDT
Nice work

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 20, 2010 11:48:39 PM PDT
revware says:
fantastic review.

Posted on Aug 31, 2010 2:49:32 PM PDT
Core says:
I thought you had a great review stranger.

Posted on Sep 1, 2010 3:12:04 AM PDT
Great review. This American will buy.

Posted on Sep 18, 2010 7:24:54 PM PDT
chewy26 says:
you have such a beautiful style of prose. thank you.

Posted on Dec 27, 2010 6:26:08 AM PST
paul vernon says:
As an ex-pat Brit in the USA I thoroughly agree with this review. Britain is a changed country, my son still lives there and I fear for my grandchildren. Good review, mate- we could obviously sit down and have a good chat over a pint -if we could ever find a decent pub left standing.....

Posted on Apr 13, 2011 8:13:29 AM PDT
Agree with review! Gran Torino is vomit inducing.

Posted on Apr 16, 2011 7:50:59 PM PDT
Jim LaRegina says:
Darklordzen, I finished HARRY BROWN minutes ago. I like it even more than you do; in his recent book Michael Caine includes HARRY BROWN on the short list of the best films he's made, and I can see why. I will take your word for it with respect to HARRY BROWN's realism, but the reason I admire this movie is how literally all the people in it are in over their heads, doing the best they can living lives beyond their control.

Posted on Aug 13, 2011 11:52:51 PM PDT
J. Gatsby says:
Superb work there mate, tis one of the best-written reviews I've read on here in quite some time. I've loved Michael Caine since I was introduced to Zulu when I was a kid and Harry Brown just wouldn't have worked for me without him and it definitely filled the empty niche left by Gran Torino. The world definitely needs more men like Harry Brown, look at what Manila was and how it is now because of people like him. The Police can only do so much on their own.

Posted on Sep 20, 2011 3:16:04 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 20, 2011 3:39:10 PM PDT
Ricardo C. says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]
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