Harry Brown is a great companion piece to Michael Winner’s gritty 1974 actioner Death Wish. They are both dramatic and intense vigilante films that rely more on their characters and drama than their graphic and sudden action scenes. Where Death Wish feels slightly restrained at some points, Harry Brown is a full onslaught of emotions. Featuring a tour de force performance by the great Michael Caine, Harry Brown provides graphic action and intense drama that every future vigilante film should take note of.
Harry Brown presents a man who really only has two friends in life. Harry’s wife is comatose in the hospital and his best friend plays chess with him every day. However, two extreme events take place that change Harry’s life forever. Not only does his wife passes away one night at the hospital, but his best friend is brutally murdered by some British punks the next. When Harry learns that the police believe his friend’s murder was a result of self defense on the punks’ part, he becomes enraged knowing his friend’s killers can only be charged for manslaughter and not murder. It is from here where Harry Brown becomes a bad ass revenge film. And it is most definitely brutal. Where the first half of the film involves very intense emotional drama, the second half of the film plunges Harry into a world of violence and darkness. Some of the scenes that occur are extremely dark, almost pushing the limits of how much we can stand within a film. The sequence in which Harry obtains a gun from two drug dealers is particularly intense.
The titular character of Harry Brown is played by none other than the amazing Michael Caine. Michael Caine is flat out amazing in all of his dramatic performances. Caine has a magnetic quality to him that very few actors have. Whenever Harry starts to tell a story in the film or speak for an extended period of time, you are completely drawn into the way that Caine speaks. He feels so natural and fully embodies his character. Caine also shows some great emotional depth during the scenes when he grieves or when he enacts his brutal revenge. This is where Harry Brown excels the most. The film has excellent performances. Besides Michael Caine, we get some nice supporting performances by Emily Mortimer as a detective, Ben Drew as the most despicable of the film’s thugs, and several other great character actors. There are even three Game of Thrones alumni actors in this! Liam Cunningham portrays a pub owner, David Bradley plays Harry’s best friend, and Iain Glen plays a police superintendent. Each of them gives a great supporting performance, especially David Bradley.
Harry Brown would make for a great double feature with Caine’s early film Get Carter or Michael Winner’s Death Wish. It’s a solid vigilante film with a great Michael Caine performance, several intense scenes, great photography, and a chilling score as well. I recommend this film for all Michael Caine and Vigilante Action film fans.
Harry Brown (2009) directed by Daniel Barber