Rough jus­tice

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews - DON­ALD CLARKE

THERE ARE, for the lib­eral viewer, few guilty plea­sures quite so de­li­cious as those pro­vided by the po­lit­i­cally ques­tion­able re­venge thriller. It’s not that films such as Dead Man’s Shoes or Last House on the Left stim­u­late the brain in spite of their du­bi­ous moral­ity. That queasy feel­ing is, rather, a vi­tal con­stituent of the buzz.

All of which is a way of in­tro­duc­ing – or ex­cus­ing – this su­perb Bri­tish shocker from a promis­ing young di­rec­tor. The film’s fi­nal shots con­firm that, though a lit­tle vi­o­lent for Daily Mail read­ers, it sup­ports the news­pa­per’s the­sis that Bri­tain is go­ing to the dogs and only a bit of rough jus­tice can re­verse the trend. So what. Harry Brown is the best west­ern yet to be made in east Lon­don.

Michael Caine, granted his finest role for a decade, plays a for­mer Royal Marine cur­rently liv­ing humbly among the drug-crazed hooli­gans who ter­rorise his di­lap­i­dated es­tate. When his old­est pal (David Bradley) is killed by hood­ies in a largely mo­tive­less at­tack, Harry, who has also just lost his wife, is pro­pelled into an al­most in­vol­un­tary cam­paign of re­venge. He brings trou­ble to a sin­is­ter drug dealer (Sean Har­ris) and causes a de­cent cop­per (Emily Mor­timer) to fur­row her brow in dis­be­lief.

For his de­but fea­ture, di­rec­tor Daniel Bar­ber, re­cip­i­ent of an Os­car nom­i­na­tion for his short The Tonto Woman, turns Lon­don into a smoky, sub-Dick­en­sian Hades. As­sisted by Martin Ruhe, who also shot Con­trol, he throws brown, greasy light across the pub­lic houses and makes echo­ing omi­nous fis­sures of the lo­cale’s danger­ous un­der­passes.

Some­times Ruhe, per­haps, pushes things too far. Har­ris’s vast drugs den looks like some­thing from the up­com­ing fifth Alien film, but the scene is so bril­liantly tense you scarcely no­tice the ab­sur­di­ties.

What re­ally makes the film surge is, you’ll be happy to hear, an an­gry, but­toned-up, nu­anced per­for­mance from the great man him­self. Many will note echoes of Gran Torino, but, ab­jur­ing that film’s ul­ti­mate mes­sage of tol­er­ance, Harry Brown is much closer in tone to Caine’s 1971 clas­sic Get Carter. Both pic­tures grab you early on, throt­tle you re­lent­lessly and then leave you feel­ing both en­er­gised and slightly dis­gusted with your­self. Vi­tal stuff.

Pre­pare to be Cained: the great man as Jack Car...,er, Harry Brown

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.