It has taken this film two years to turn up on Asian satellite TV – but I am glad it did. It is a great film (and reminds me why I am glad to have escaped Britain).
Beautifully composed and shot on a London estate (which was demolished shortly after) it tells the tale of Harry Brown (Mike Caine) – a pensioner who loses his wife to old age – and his best friend to the gang of thugs who “rule” the estate.
There are many such estates in Britain. The dregs of society live there, with high unemployment leading to high crime and illicit drug use. And with their low levels of intelligence and imagination, the drugs are their only escape.
The alienation the inhabitants feel often explodes into violence (as demonstrated during the recent riots) and this is the backdrop for the film.
With his wife dead, when Harry’s best friend is murdered he decides he has little to lose by going after those responsible. Thus the film becomes Britain’s latter-day answer to America’s “Death Wish” (the original film – not the wanky sequels).
And it is at least as good as that film. Caine threw himself into the role, it being close to (his original) home. He was quoted as saying it would be his last film – but he later said he was misquoted. This writer suspects what he actually said was if it TURNED OUT to be his last film, he would be satisfied.
And justifiably so. If it had been successful in The States, Caine would be looking at another OSCAR nod. But like “The Boat That Rocked” – it was too British.
And because of its failure to make it across The Pond, “Harry Brown” barely covered its costs (which were quite high – the riot scene alone was not cheap).
But we do not care: the film was made with British Lottery money – some of which, ironically, would have come from the desperate occupants of those estates…
So there it is. “Harry Brown” is not a date movie – it is visceral and bleak. And while Harry had had experience in Northern Ireland, he does NOT suddenly become a wrinkly action-man.
But the film LIVES. It is ABOUT something – which is all too rare these days.
And it even has an upbeat ending. So if it comes your way, check it out.