Harry Brown Review: OAP Rambo
In a short speech before this screening, Michael Caine climbed to the stage and told everyone: “This is not a violent film – it is a film about violence.”
I wasn’t too sure that there was much of a difference between the two. But after viewing his latest piece, Caine’s words made a little more sense.
Harry Brown is a visceral portrait of urban Britain which tackles just about every issue the Daily Mail has a columnist for: family breakdown, drug abuse, youth violence, gang warfare, police bureaucracy, knife culture and even gun crime – it’s all here, and it’s right in your face from the very first sequence in which two adolescents shoot a young mum.
The film could frequently be accused of a heavy bias against the nation’ s youth, as it demonises teenagers almost without exception. However despite this slightly skewed slant, it manages to remain morbidly now.
A retired marine whose only daughter died when she was 13, Caine’s title character is man who seems to have been constantly surrounded by death. Unfortunately for him, not much changes as the cameras start to roll and he loses his terminally ill wife in the opening scenes.
A few days later, Harry’s friend Leonard – David Bradley of Harry Potter fame – tells him of his plan to confront the young thugs who have been tormenting him in recent weeks. When he is found dead in the stairwell of the tenement block, the police struggle to mount a case against some truly odious suspects, so Harry Brown decides to take matters into his own hands – and how.
The result is a version of Rambo which bears almost no parallel. This is gritty stuff which probes deeper than many have ever dared into the world of ASBO youth, and nothing is off limits.
While it is certainly guilty of over-egging the pudding in places, the writers might argue that a degree of sensationalism is needed to get a valid point across. Harry Brown is a fascinating piece of cinema and an absolute triumph for Caine, but be warned, it might lead you to consider the world a very different place once you leave the theatre.
From the opening stages, the stream of reprehensible characters is relentless, but this ruthlessly depressing film might strike a serious note with many older generations who have seen the level of youth violence soar in recent decades.
It left me asking: “Is it really this bad?”. If it is, then that is a very depressing thought indeed.