Harry Brown (UK, 2009)

MV5BMTM5NjE2NzI2Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDY0ODUyMw@@._V1_SX640_SY720_Directed by: Daniel Barber. So there’s no doubt that Michael Caine is  one of the most enduring badasses of cinema. And the reason I elevate him so is that, unlike other “badasses” like Charles Bronson for example, Michael Caine is a great actor. It’s not that he’s particularly delving into any deep emotions with these types of “badass” roles, because the roles don’t demand that. They demand he kicks ass. But what makes him memorable in this film, unlike, again, Charles Bronson in the Death Wish movies (or really in anything I’ve seen), is that Michael Caine can depict the stoic, gravelly voiced, morally compromised hero while hinting that there is something mysteriously profound and special about his particular violent streak—which puts Caine more in league with Lee Marvin or John Wayne (at his best). This being said, when I set out to write this review, it was going to be a review condemning the narrow simple-mindedness with which the film deals with the problem of social decay, urban violence, street gangs, drug wars, etc. For a group of people who are concerned enough with these issues to make a film about it—and you could just as easily call this an issue movie as a revenge movie or a crime movie—they didn’t seem to sit and boil through this thing very much. They seemed to have thought: “What do we have to do to get to see Michael Caine—a cool old dude—shooting it up with a bunch of young scumbags?” As far as that goes: bravo, filmmakers. This film does indeed give you lots of awesome shoot-em-up stuff. And we can’t really blame old Harry Brown for somehow turning into a soulless monster and gunning down these guys, not when the film goes out of its way so much to show us that these are the worst bad guys in the world. And, again, as far as simple-minded, whole-world’s-gone-to-hell, bang-bang-bang movies go, this one is fantastically done. It looks great, it’s shot great, the music is amazing, the acting is great (I could talk all day about Sean Harris and Liam Cunningham alone). But I still can’t quite digest the central thesis: the system is broken and the only way to make all the bad stuff disappear and get better is for the lone cowboy to take a gun and shoot a handful of bad kids.  At the end of the day, I suppose it’s up to you to decide if the film actually has a poignant thesis on modern social problems, or if it’s just a gladiatorial spectacle dressed up as an intelligent art film. I will say though, that unlike a lot of movies like this, I can honestly recommend that this movie be seen by anyone remotely interested in these topics. After all, Michael Caine is one of the most enduring badasses of cinema for a reason.

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One response to “Harry Brown (UK, 2009)

  1. Pingback: The Sweeney (UK, 2012) | Offhand Reviews·

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