There is a question which haunts you after watching Harry Brown; why do these filmmakers hate young people so much? This is a film which perpetuates a vision of British, working-class youth as hooded criminals who would stab/shoot you as soon as look at you. This is tabloid propaganda and an irresponsibly negative stereotype to attach to the youngest and poorest section of society. Harry Brown shame on you!
The film is a reworking of similar revenge movies. Labelled by its own marketing as the British Gran Torino, Harry Brown has much more in common with Charles Bronson’s Death Wish series, which was also an orgy of violence and unnecessary stereotypes. Harry Brown played by Michael Caine, is an ex-marine living out his retirement in one of England’s countless estates. He spends his days visiting his hospitalised wife and playing chess with his best friend Leonard (David Bradley, Harry Potter series) in a local pub. Brown keeps his head down, avoiding or ignoring the crime on his housing estate.
That is until Leonard is murdered and Brown, seeing the inadequacies of the police investigation, decides to hunt down the killers, vigilante style. Brown uses knives, guns and torture against a bunch of teenagers and junkies in a glorification of violence that is repugnant to watch. The suggestion that the audience should cheer on Brown’s bloody quest is truly alarming.
Harry Brown’s message is not the films only failing. As well as clearly signposting every single plot point, the film is also a waste of acting talent. Poor Emily Mortimer (Lars and the Real Girl) as D.I. Alice Frampton, the cop who wants justice and is suspicious of Brown, is so underwritten she is apparently only in the film as the token female. Sean Harris (who is amazingly good in The Red Riding Trilogy) obviously has fun as the menacing drug dealer, Stretch, doing a great impression of malevolent evil. The film wastes none of its 103 mins on character development for any roles aside from Caine’s, with the cast largely being there as fodder for Brown to kill.
Old people are scared of today’s youth. This is nothing new. Older generations have feared and disapproved of teenage behaviour for decades. The filmmakers have tuned into this paranoia and have tried to make it into a modern, contemporary problem. In actuality the imagined is far worse than the reality. Saddest of all is that Harry Brown’s filmmakers are perpetuating this negative message.
Harry Brown is released in Australia on 20th May
Director: Daniel Barber
Cast: Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, Sean Harris, Charlie Creed-Miles, Ben Drew, Liam Cunningham, David Bradley, Jack O’Connell