HARRY BROWN (2009) SBS ONE, 9.30PM, MA15+, DRAMA

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - TV Guide - - HIGHLIGHTS -

This is Eng­land’s an­swer to Clint East­wood’s GranTorino. The won­der­ful Michael Caine smashes pre­con­cep­tions about re­tirees by lay­ing waste to drug deal­ers and thugs who have ter­rorised his work­ing-class com­mu­nity. Un­der­neath the ex­treme vi­o­lence and cold-blooded retri­bu­tion is what too many vig­i­lante movies lack: a sym­pa­thetic heart and pal­pa­ble mo­ti­va­tion. In­stead of themes such as racial ha­tred, gang vi­o­lence, gen­er­a­tional dif­fer­ences, old age and men­tor­ing, like East­wood’s bul­let, di­rec­tor Daniel Bar­ber’s im­pres­sive de­but fea­ture has Caine as the be­liev­able lead in an at­tack on a so­ci­ety de­sen­si­tised to crime. The­Bill on crack, Har­ryBrown starkly de­picts South Lon­don as a cesspool of il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties which the po­lice are ei­ther un­able or un­will­ing to com­bat. A se­ries of nasty un­fold­ing events mo­ti­vate wid­ower and ex-marine Harry Brown (Caine) to lock and load. Bar­ber pro­vides a non-glam­ourised but ar­tis­ti­cally mus­cu­lar snap­shot of those trapped by law­break­ers. The film’s cen­tre­piece is Brown’s meet­ing with rav­aged pushers, with the ex­tremely tense se­quence al­ways remembering that its “hero’’ is vul­ner­a­ble, ner­vous and fu­elled by fu­ri­ous grief. Caine as­tutely shifts the emo­tional gears within Brown, which is cru­cial to the au­di­ence stick­ing with the reprisals he hands out. Ex­cept for a dis­ap­point­ing fi­nal scene, Har­ryBrown’s only is­sue is its glib por­trait of Lon­don’s cops. Pre­sent­ing the top brass as ruth­less pen-pushers, and the sole fe­male of­fi­cer (Emily Mor­timer) as a bleed­ing heart, lessens this at­mo­spheric film about tak­ing a stand. ★★★★

Above the law: Michael Caine takes on a crime-rid­den Lon­don as the tit­u­lar Harry Brown.

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