Director: Daniel Barber
Screenplay: Gary Young
Producers: Keith Bell, Matthew Brown (no relation), Kris Thykier & Matthew Vaughn
Starring: Michael Caine, David Bradley, Emily Mortimer, Charlie Creed-Miles, Ben Drew & Liam Cunnigham
Year: 2009
Country: UK
Duration: 103 mins

Charles Bronson and Clint Eastwood eat your hearts out; you’ve got nothing on Harry Brown. This is a very British take on the vigilante movie and some may argue that it’s been lifted directly from Death Wish, although I would say that it’s only been heavily inspired by it and significantly better.

Early on in the film Harry (Caine) quickly loses his wife of many years to illness and his only friend Len (Bradley) to a vicious gang attack. The drab estate on which Harry lives is ruled by a gang of drug-pushing thugs headed-up by Noel Winters (Drew) and when a yob tries to rob Harry at knife point – the blade ends up in the yob’s own chest – Harry falls back on his experiences in the Marines to take on the gang and exact revenge for his friend’s murder. Len’s stabbing was captured on a mobile phone and Harry sets off to get those responsible.

Harry acquires a selection of guns from two local drug dealers (they are dealt with in the process) and goes on a mini-rampage of vigilante killing. Cold-blooded shooting and torture are not unfamiliar friends to him, it would seem. The only person who suspects Harry to be responsible is D.I. Alice Frampton (Mortimer), who gets pooh-poohed for even suggesting it.

A riot starts on the estate after a raid by the police goes horribly wrong, during which Frampton and D.S. Hicock (Creed-Miles) get injured. Harry drags them to safety in the local pub run by Sid (Cunnigham), but discovers that Sid is Noel’s uncle and he isn’t prepared to let Harry mete out ‘justice’ on his nephew. Sid overpowers Harry and says that the police and Harry must be killed; the bodies can be dumped in the street and no-one would be the wiser for who killed them. He suffocates Hicock and as Noel is throttling Frampton, Harry shoots him in the neck. As Sid is about to shoot Harry in return he is taken out by police marksmen.

The enquiry into the riot paints a gloss over the shootings and proclaims the raid a success as crime on the estate has decreased significantly.

This is not a film for the light-hearted and more than earns its 18-certificate. Caine is on top form as the unlikely hero and Ben Drew delivers a really disturbing performance as the vicious Noel. Harry Brown more than deserves its Empire Awards Best Film, 2010, and the London Critics Circle Film Awards 2010, ALFS Award for Daniel Barber.

Review by Andy Goodman

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5 Responses

  1. Andy Goodman

    You might’ve got the one I sent back! It’s a corker. Harry Brown for PM!

  2. David Brook

    Finally got round to seeing it. I don’t think I’d go as far as 5 stars, but it’s a solid thriller. Nice and gritty which makes a change from most Hollywood fare. I was disappointed by the ending though, the ‘twist’ and showdown at the end didn’t settle for me with the more grimy and realistic elements earlier on, it all felt a bit unnecessary and contrived.

  3. Dazz Camponi

    This is one of my favourites and I think this is one of Michael Caine’s best performances. I think I gave it an 8 or a 9. It wasn’t perfect but it was very close to being it. Great review!


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