Michael Caine (pensioner), Ben Drew (psychopath), Emily Mortimer (concerned)
What’s it about?
Michael Caine is Harry Brown, an ex Royal Marine who lives on a council estate in London and has two friends in the whole world: his wife, who’s dying in hospital, and Leonard, who he plays chess with. When Harry’s wife dies, he’s distraught. He goes to see Leonard. Leonard tells Harry he’s being bullied by a bunch of kids on his estate who keep putting firebombs through his letterbox, and stuff. They all wear hoodies and Nike Air Max, of course. Leonard says he told the police, but they did nothing, so Leonard shows Harry a military bayonet he intends to use on the kids. Harry tells him not too. Leonard does it anyway, and gets murdered. Harry’s distraught again, but this time he sets out on a journey of vicious personal vengeance armed with the sharp eye of a man who used to kill for a living and the efficiency of an old man with sod all else to live for.
What’s good about it?
Caine is immense, and if the rumours (started by a misquote of Caine) are true, this could be his final lead role in a movie, and it feels absolutely correct that Harry Brown rather than the good-not-great death-and-magic-fest Is Anybody There? should be the great man’s finale. Ben Drew (who is the rapper Plan B, in real life) plays the nastiest of the kids on the estate with such terrifying and alarming menace that if he didn’t have Michael Caine as his mentor you’d worry about the havoc his inner demons could wreak. Harry Brown is brilliantly absurd, but done with such smart British understatement that you can’t help but fantasise about your granddad taking a sawn off shotgun to the bloke that keeps playing jungle music too loud at two in the morning. Impressively, this is director Daniel Barber’s first film. Some guys have all the luck.
What’s bad about it?
The premise (bad council estate kids wearing hoodies terrorising an old man) is a wet dream for people who get turned on by Daily Mail paranoia and moral panic. It’s probably worth pointing out that not all kids on council estates are complete scumbags, but we’re guessing you already knew that.
Harry Brown is a tense and violent tale of vigilante pensioner revenge that’s fast and blood-splattered, stinks of weed, underage sex, mindless murder, blind loyalty and flexible morals and doesn’t sell out to a cheesy ending. Michael Caine has his Gran Torino, and no sane man can deny him the accolade of being this country’s Clint Eastwood. Come on, he deserves it.