While the UK film Harry Brown starring Michael Caine has been around since September of 2009, it’s finally getting its American debut this weekend. The marketing is trying to sell it as a brutal revenge film along the likes of the international hit Taken. Does it live up to those standards? Click through to find out.
Brown is an ex-British military officer and widow who now lives alone in a dangerous part of London. His only friend is Leonard, who he plays chess with at the local pub. Teenage violence begins to run rampant in the neighborhood, and Leonard can’t take it anymore, so he confronts the gang who has been hassling him. However, he gets killed and even peed on. Once Brown realizes the police won’t be able to do much, he sets off on a journey to take revenge on Leonard’s killers.
Sounds great, right? The problem is, all of that takes up maybe a third of the film. The rest is unwatchable boringness. In an attempt to set a somber, dark mood, we unfortunately get the “Twilight Saga” effect of boring and moody. There are close ups of Brown buttering his toast. There are multiple times where you just want to tell him to get on with it. Taken got to the point quickly and early. We don’t even see Brown doing anything dangerous until halfway through the film.
If you’ve read any of my reviews, you know one of my pet peeves is when a movie doesn’t make sense, especially when characters make decisions that baffle me. This movie succeeds at hitting all those for me. I’m never sure what Brown is doing or why, like in a scene where he’s with two druggies trying to buy a gun. You’re an upstanding citizen, can’t you buy a gun legally, or at least somewhere where there’s not a constant threat of dying?
To be fair, there were some brutal and intense actions scenes, but they were too few and far between. Brown’s supposed “military training” has very little impact on both his fighting and his decisions, as I (who has no training) can think of half a dozen better ways for him to approach situations he encountered. That being said, Caine was great in the role. To go from old fart to bad ass is hard to pull off, but he does it, even if all I wanted was bad ass.
I’m sure there’s a social message to this film about today’s youth being disrespectful and such, but there’s no subtlety to it. The actions are so grand and unbelievable, I don’t know how they expect an audience to actually care about anything going on.
Final Grade: C
Harry Brown is directed by first timer Daniel Barber and written by Gary Young (Shooters). The dramatic thriller, starring Michael Caine and Emily Mortimer, opens in the US on April 30th.