Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with a review from talkbacker The Lonely Dachshund who got to see the Michael Caine old-man-kicking-ass revenge flick HARRY BROWN. No hyperbole here, but Harry Brown is one of my most anticipated flicks in the can. When I sat down with Michael Caine earlier this year he described it as what would have happened if Jack Carter had lived to a ripe old age and was called back into action. This film promises to be everything I wanted out of GRAN TORINO and didn't get... Here's Mr. Dachshund's thoughts on the film!
Hello Harry, I don’t know if you’ve run a full review on “Harry Brown” yet but if not, please consider the following. I know Quint did an interview with Michael Caine a little while back where he discussed it. But I got into a screening of the film this past week and had to share my thoughts. In short, it is a badass film that you have to see if you get a chance. It is brutal and violent without being exploitive and well worth seeing. Here’s the long way round: Basically, the film is a grittier, violent, British version of “Gran Torino.” Michael Caine’s Harry Brown and Clint Eastwood’s Walt Kowalski have much in common. Both are retirees and recent widowers living alone in neighborhoods that used to be nice places to raise a family but are now ghettos run by petty gangsters and thugs who push around, rob and intimidate the locals. Both are ex-military men who have seen combat and are haunted by the acts they committed and witnessed during that time in their lives. And both feel they need to teach these young punks a lesson since the police are doing nothing to stop them from dealing drugs and killing people in the streets. But the films have one MAJOR difference. Whereas Eastwood’s Kowalski ultimately decides that killing is not the answer and deals with his situation in a more sacrificial way, Caine’s Brown takes the opposite approach. He decides to start putting bullets in people’s heads. Keep in mind: this is not some throwaway action flick. Caine gives a strong performance here that some may not be used to seeing him in. Maybe I’m too used to seeing him as Alfred, but here he is at turns vulnerable and intimidating. You feel his anger and frustration as he sees what’s happening around him. You want him to take care of business. And you’re scared of him when he does. I think his accent helps with this. When he kindly explains to a druggie who’s been hit in the gut by one of his bullets how he’s going to slowly bleed out since it hit his liver, the posh English enunciation makes the whole thing a bit more haunting. And though Caine’s performance makes the film what it is, credit has to be given to director Daniel Barber. Barber puts a lot of genuine tension here and that’s not easy. I think we’re so used to seeing things turn out cleanly and in a preditable way that it’s a bit jarring when it doesn’t. The best example here is a surprisingly long scene where Brown goes out to buy a gun from a drug dealer. (It’s England. You can’t buy handguns as easily as in the States.) It reminded me of that scene in “Boogie Nights” when Alfred Molina is jamming out to Night Ranger while Mark Wahlberg and his friends are nervously waiting on the couch. Every minute a new element is introduced which sets you and everyone in the scene on edge. You know at any moment, some one is going to snap and the shit is going to hit the fan. I won’t spoil it, but the scene is like that. And it pays off. But the best scene in the movie doesn’t even have Caine in it. The film’s opening is a video of a gang member during an initiation. It is shot on a little home video camera giving it a more immediate feel. I know, I know; I think the whole “No really! It’s shot on video! That makes it more real!” convention is tired. For every “Paranormal Activity” there are dozens of failing poseurs. But this scene…I can’t wait to see it again. Even from a filmmaking standpoint, one has to be impressed. Again, I won’t divulge the details but once you see it, you’ll know what I mean. Barber is definitely a director to watch. The film isn’t perfect and a revelation towards the end is unnecessary though not harmful but he makes a strong debut here. And by no means am I trying to imply that “Harry Brown” is trying to copy “Gran Torino.” More than likely neither had anything to do with the other. But the two do show fundamental differences in how American and European films approach the same subject. Can you imagine “Gran Torino” getting a greenlight by Warner Bros. and making $148 million dollars if it included a scene of Eastwood torturing a man less than half his age to get information out of him? I don’t think so. But we watch Caine do it and mercilessly so. I liked “Gran Torino” but I wasn’t blown away by it. I wanted Eastwood in the end to take the gang members out. I wanted that cathartic ending. “Harry Brown” delivers it and doesn’t wait until the end to give it to you. And though I admire and respect Eastwood’s work, Caine here makes him look a bit like a pansy. If you print this, please use my talkback signature The Lonely Dachshund.