Harry Brown (2009)

(In theatres, June 2010) The best reason to see this art-house exploitation film is to watch Michael Caine, visibly showing his age, reprising some of his stone-cold killer mannerism.  There isn’t anything more about this film, after all, than a revenge fantasy featuring a freshly-widowed pensioner taking revenge on a bunch of teenage hoodlums.  Starting from a paranoid view of the world, Harry Brown doesn’t spare a tut-tut while describing the depravity of today’s youth.  It does get quite a bit more enthusiastic, however, in showing its protagonist use his old Marine training to take down the worst of the local teens.  Caine with a gun is always fun to watch, even though the movie around him remains an uneasy blend of art-house drama and genre shoot’em-up.  The flaccid pacing, sure-footed cinematography and attention paid to Caine’s center-stage performance are more in-line with Oscar-baiting movies than the sudden bloody violence, squalid setting and unintelligibly profane characters.  Like many modern vigilante-justice films, Harry Brown remains stuck between condemning violence and indulging into the sheer thrill of it: Different kinds of viewers will have different ideas as to what are the film’s best sequences.  While the result doesn’t escape a few flaws (including a finale that seems to reach for unnecessary connections between characters), it’s a watchable film that is perhaps most interesting in comparison with other vigilante films, other British crime dramas and other Michael Caine tough guys.

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