Even as an OAP: the icy stare; the steady and deliberate delivery of dialogue and the cool execution of violence; Sir Michael Caine evokes memories of Jack Carter in his role as the eponymous Harry Brown.
Harry Brown lives on a rough London estate where yob rule and the criminal underworld thrive much to the chagrin of Harry’s mate, Leonard. Things come to a head for Harry when, after his desperately ill wife passes away and Leonard confides in Harry that he is being harassed by yobs on the estate and has taken to carrying a bayonet; Leonard is found murdered with his own weapon. Harry reaches breaking point and uses his previous military experience to dole out his own form of justice.
Caine whose movie choices were once famed for occasionally being decided based upon pay:
“I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific.” Michael Caine speaking about Jaws: The Revenge.
His choices now seem to be based solely upon the quality of the material as his recent stints in front of camera for Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Prestige and Inception) and the excellent “Is There Anybody There?” supports. With the latter also showing Caine’s support for British movie making has not waned over the years.
Harry Brown is a British movie directed by newcomer Daniel Barber, on the heels of his Oscar nominated short; The Tonto Woman, and he certainly opens the movie with what seems to be a statement of his style. The film opens with mobile phone footage of a gang initiation and follows this with further phone footage of youths running riot on the estate. Unfortunately, this is where the stylistic statement ends, apart from some later phone footage used as a plot device. And here lies my issue with this movie: it seems very disjointed and inconsistent. And the makers can be thankful for Caine’s ability to carry the movie so remarkably that the inconsistencies, for the main, become inconsequential.
Caine does carry the movie wonderfully; it is amazing to think how convincing he is as the role of an OAP in an inner city estate considering that, although it was where he was brought up, the scenario is so far departed from his life for over 50 years. It is also a testament to his well known and well publicised desire to never forget his roots. One that supposedly led him to become somewhat of an inspiration for residents of the estate where this was filmed as he would talk to and, more importantly, relate to and understand them during the location shoot. Caine fulfils the roles requirements to show true frailty and vulnerability as an OAP and also the summoning up of repressed memories of military experience to bring forward a menacing vigilante.
He is ably supported by the much underused Emily Mortimer as a sympathetic Police Officer and another scene stealing performance from Ben Drew AKA Plan B, as the vicious thug Noel Winters. Ben Drew follows up an accomplished debut in Adulthood and, whilst he certainly runs the risk of becoming typecast as a thug, he has an air of confidence and a screen presence that suggests he may move on to greater and more challenging roles. Remarkable, considering he is also enjoying a hugely successful career as a rapper/singer/songwriter.
The movies misgivings are the inconsistencies. Seemingly very gritty and real for the most part, there are sequences that are borderline absurd and the plot becomes conveniently contrived when reaching the climax. The direction is also inconsistent; the beginning sequence does not fit into the rest of the movie and some of the prolonged views of teacups and curtains whilst the rest of the scene is out of focus lend nothing to the movie’s tone. If anything, the higgledy-piggledy direction detracts from the realism and the movie lacks any notable style.
This is at odds with the marketing images of the movie which are very consistent and have a very precise view of the movie. The excellent use of the mod target motif harks back to Caine’s younger days and feeds the sense of nostalgia and homage to Caine’s own previous roles, such as Jack Carter and Harry Palmer.
Caine’s screen presence and charisma enables the movie to transcend and such foibles of style and direction to be a thoroughly entertaining and engrossing movie.
My rating: 4/5