The Revenge of Harry Brown
Looking out from his flat's window Harry Brown (Michael Caine) sees on a daily basis that the London neighbourhood he grew up in is becoming terrorized by violent young thugs whose aggressive ways make some people scared to leave the safety of their homes. One of those people who find himself on the end of constant attacks from these teenage thugs is Harry's friend Len who sadly ends up being killed by a group of teenagers. With the police not getting the job done in Harry's view he decides to matters into his own hands as he goes after the cocky young men who not only savagely murdered Len but terrorize the neighbourhood.
In a way "Harry Brown" is a movie of two halves serving up a first half which paints a blunt and frightening picture of what life in some parts of the UK has become. It's cleverly done, stripped bare of fluff or interfering soundtrack to show how Harry's life has become quiet and lonely, living by himself in the block of flats, avoiding certain areas because of the teenagers who congregate there and visiting his wife in hospital as well as the pub for a drink with a friend. It's a bleak but sadly realistic portrait of what life is like for the elderly in the UK highlighting the quietness of loneliness, the fear but also their pride, such as when Harry makes sure his home is tidy and he looks smart. It's so well worked that it makes you realise things about those elderly people you see in the streets going about their business.
Before I get to the second half of "Harry Brown" there is the portrayal of the youth of today in this movie with them being shown as weapon carrying, drug smoking thugs who hang around on streets. In fairness not everywhere is like that but a lot of places are and there is something when in the world you live in you see a bunch of teenagers congregated on the path in your way that is intimidating. So yes whilst it is fair to say that the portrayal of youth culture is an extreme one as shown in "Harry Brown" it isn't as far from the truth as some might imagine.
The second half of "Harry Brown" is where I would say they have tried to combine a mainstream style storyline into this portrait of life in the UK as Harry takes matters into his own hands. In a strange way there is still some realism to this as Harry draws on his experience having been a Marine which if you think about it many of the elderly men you see in the street will have had experience in the forces. But instead of making him an unrealistic action hero it shows how cruel growing old can be as he is unable to do what he once did with ease. But like with the first half there is some forcing of this in order to bring the entertainment into the movie because pure realism would have been not enough.
Of course "Harry Brown" stars Michael Caine and it is his performance which very much makes the movie. Having himself grown up in the area you can believe Caine as Harry having seen the world outside his home change whilst you can also believe him as a proud man who would never think of leaving his home in a mess or leaving home looking a state. It helps to make Harry a likeable character who you sympathise with from beginning to end. On the other hand there is Ben Drew whose performance is Noel, the arrogant gang member is just as effective and you can sense that Noel is someone you could end up meeting if you lived in a troubled area.
What this all boils down to is that "Harry Brown" is first and fore mostly a pretty realistic look at life in the UK, delivering that sense of fear which many feel as they see young men and women vandalising their neighbourhoods. But it is also entertaining delivering that vigilante storyline and a sublime performance by Michael Caine to make it more than just a shocking look at what the UK has become.