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Archive for November 23rd, 2009

Warning this review contains plot spoilers to this film and Gran Torino.

Earlier this year Clint Eastwood’s Walt Kowalski in Gran Torino borrowed from previous characters like Harry Callahan and Tom Highway but renounced violence and revenge with a powerful if not surprising twist. In the same way Michael Caine’s Harry Brown could draw inspiration from his old characters like Jack Carter although his actions are probably more akin to Charles Bronson’s Paul Kersey. Harry is a pensioner living on a south London housing estate that is terrorised by drug dealing “hoodies”. Recently widowed his only evident friend Leonard is killed by said hoodies. The police represented by an underdeveloped but well acted DCI Frampton (Emily Mortimer) are ineffective in catching the perpetrators. Eventually Harry decides he has had enough and decides to take action. Fortunately Harry is a former Royal Marine making his revenge more successful and believable than with your average 76 year old.

The film is surprisingly slow burning and slow building with confident direction from first time director Daniel Barber. The story is relatively simple and the script is wonderfully economical with dialogue. For all its good points the film would have been utter rubbish without a charismatic and towering performance from Michael Caine who is entering a new stage in his career with roles that include Clarence in Is Anybody There? and Alfred in the Batman Films. And that is where we have an interesting comparison. Through the odd line of dialogue it is suggested that Alfred Pennyworth has a military background; would Alfred resort to similar actions as Harry in a Gotham without Batman? You may be wondering why I am digressing into Batman but that it does have an interesting parallel, Harry and Bruce Wayne are both basically vigilantes. However Batman has a more moral subtext as Bruce is tormented by his actions where as Harry simply goes through the motions. Traditionally in movies, people who take the law into there own hands follow a sort of Hays Code type story arc where they either don’t survive their actions or realise they have become as bad as their enemy and spend the rest of the film trying to seek redemption. If anything Harry finds something to live for in his actions. The film is often unpleasant to watch and bordering of fascist in it rhetoric but is strangely compelling mainly because of Caine.

So following this esoteric rant you are wondering if I thought the film was any good. Simply the film was very good, hugely enjoyable despite moral concerns I may have.

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