Harry Brown is one of the best revenge films of the year and one of the best in its genre. Almost possessing the real world viciousness of Carnahan’s Narc, Harry Brown sets its self apart with its protagonist, Harry Brown (Michael Caine), an old man, a petitioner that is almost three times senior than the majority of his opponents. In some ways rising above the brutality and semi-quintessentiality of Scott’s Man on Fire, in both its ending and the way the film was shot, Harry Brown’s camera flourish never distracts from what is going on in a scene like the delirious cinematography present in Man on Fire. There is a brief film noir, independent film segment moment in the film were the camera lingers on Harry Brown’s face as he looks down, thinking of his ailing wife, Kathy Brown (Liz Daniels).
The criminal element is arguably the most enticing aspect of the film while Harry Brown has the greatest range of emotion. The criminal miscreants range from young hoodlums to tweakers, addicts, and crime bosses.
The best take down scene in the Harry Brown is when Harry acquires his guns. It is a complete micro story: It has a beginning, middle, and an end, all finely articulated. The main villain in the scene, Stretch (Sean Harris), is covered in needle marks, a gaggle of scars, and tattoos, operates under the influence of continuous narcotic highs yet is not stupid enough to believe everything Harry is telling him. He is always watching Harry, even as the degradation of his fainéant “girlfriend” Sharon (Klariza Clayton) plays on a high-definition screen in front of him. As the scene draws to a close, there is a moment of connection between the dying regarding a tale that Harry’s deceased friend Leonard Atwell (David Bradley) could not ask him about. Though ended with a one-liner before the coup de grace, it is not the standard Hollywood fare, fits what has transpired, and is not meant to be cool, funny or memorable.
Harry Brown has the hackneyed military background but it is significantly downplayed so as to keep the present paramount. Always at play is Harry’s age, as it was during a chase scene in Morel’s Taken, grounding the goings-on in reality. Harry is not as physically quick as his opponents anymore but is a cognoscente of military combat and strategy and has experience and cunning on his side.
Detective Inspector Frampton (Emily Mortimer)’s single-minded pursuit of Leonard’s killers is unfortunate and is commented on by her superior, Police Superintendent Childs (Iain Glen). It would have been realistic and police procedure accurate if DI Frampton had invested all of the cases on her docket as zealously, beneficially augmenting the film and broadening its scope, after all: those cases also had something to do with Brown. If investigated, she might have found that out. This was a scriptural oversight and a weakness of Gary Young’s screenplay.
Harry Brown’s finale had as a good reveal, aggrandized by the unexpected and brutality that rivals the kind Fraulein von Hammersmark encountered at the end of Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds.
Daniel Barber’s Harry Brown is far better, grittier, and dare I say dirtier than a revenge film lover may expect. It does not quite have the self-righteousness of Death Wish but is the closest film to that over-all quality produced in some time. Even Taken, in some regards, takes a backseat to Harry Brown. This is not a perfect revenge film but it is in the top percentile.