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Caine becomes a killer in Harry Brown

Caine becomes a killer in Harry Brown

Source: AssociatedPress

By: Christy Lemire

Critic's Rating: 3/5

Wednesday 05 May 2010

Movie Title

Caine becomes a killer in Harry Brown

Director

Daniel Barber

Star Cast

Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, Charlie Creed-Miles, David Bradley, Iain Glen, Sean Harris, Ben Drew

Harry Brown, a widower and ex-Marine played by Michael Caine, watches the hooligans who terrorise his working-class London neighbourhood from the still of his tidy, lonely apartment. In no time, he will take justice into his own hands in the name of all that is good and right in this world. Because somebody's gotta do it.

He doesn't have a lawn, but if he did, he'd tell those kids to get off it.

Harry Brown has unmistakable echoes of Gran Torino, and The Brave One and Death Wish before it, and even Caine's own Get Carter. And so his vigilante hell-raising might have seemed more thrilling if only it weren't so overly familiar and predictable.

Still, Caine brings a quiet dignity to this regular Joe, as you can imagine. This is an easy fit for him and the soft rumble of his voice, the world-weariness of his demeanour. His performance comes close to saving what is a rather obvious tale, blankly told.

The first feature from director Daniel Barber, written by Gary Young, is slow to the point of being stultifying early on, as we meet Harry and marvel at the precision with which he still maintains his life. He meticulously spreads just the right amount of jam on his toast, then cleans every crumb off the table in his modest kitchen before beginning his day. We get it, he's a military man through and through.

When his only real friend, Leonard (David Bradley), dies at the hands of the druggy teenage thugs who rule the area, Harry very matter-of-factly starts taking them out, one by one. The codger still has a way with a knife and a gun, it seems, even when he's had a pint too many at the pub. And apparently he has no qualms about tapping into those skills.

Or does he? That's one gaping hole in Harry Brown: whether it plagues on the psyche of this normally law-abiding citizen to have transformed himself into an efficient killing machine. There's no internal struggle, no moral ambiguity. A scene at a drug den, where Harry buys a gun and tries to help a young woman who's high to the point of being comatose, suggests glimmers of humanity remain within him. But that's about it.

Then again, this moment is one of many that Barber populates with generically scuzzy, heavily tatted addicts. We watch one guy shoot up heroin and another snort lines of coke off a table, while graphic porn plays on a giant screen in the background. These aren't real people, but rather scary types intended to shock. And this scene, like so many in the movie, has an evocatively dark and dank look about it that eventually feels like a dreary sameness.

Meanwhile, as detectives investigate Leonard's death, they also begin to suspect Harry himself is behind this recent spate of killings. Well, one of them does, at least, played a by a weirdly miscast Emily Mortimer. She looks too delicate for the role, not tough enough. Her character is bored and boring, and she makes clunkily obvious observations like: "You don't have anyone to play with," when she notices a chess board in Harry's living room.

Caine's very presence makes him watchable throughout, though. And there is admittedly a guilty pleasure in seeing Harry shoot a baddie, then calmly remark, "I don't reckon you've got long." It's just the kind of comment Clint Eastwood would make in this situation.

Harry Brown, a Samuel Goldwyn Films release, is rated R for strong violence and language throughout, drug use and sexual content. Running time: 102 minutes.

Two stars out of four.

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