Film: Harry Brown

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

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15 thoughts on “Film: Harry Brown

  1. Agreed. “Harry Brown” is an abhorrent and offensive piece of garbage. Decrying youths who are violent and yet celebrating it from older citizens. Hypocrisy.

  2. …an irresponsibly negative stereotype to attach to the youngest and poorest section of society.

    Right, because the youngest and poorest aren’t a disproportionate source of violent crime, or anything.

  3. No, my friend the reality is far worse than this movie. I live in a pretty messed up neighborhood myself and its really ugly sometimes. I was cheering for him. I’m just 26 and all, but I’ve seen things. Furthermore I really don’t see how this film glorifies violence. My problem with this film is that they could’ve expanded and explored the youths individual stories more instead of just painting them as violent youths out of control.

  4. I would have to disagree. I believe this film accurately represents a growing culture in the UK, which can actually be far worse [at times] than this film depicts. It could have gone into more depth into the cause of this youth culture… but overall all has a fair balance of the problem.

    This film isn’t about young people. It’s about a certain [growing] section of culture within the younger generation. I myself am only 25 and certainly not so out of touch to believe this is complete fiction. There is a lot of positive things to be said about people in the same age group-but this isn’t the film to say it.

    At no point in the film does it glamourise violence. It purely uses it along with emotion to communicate the message. The only unrealistic and shocking thing in this film is for there to be someone who actually cares enough to kill as a vigilante. Not to say I agree or disagree with this, but it is the only angle of the film that is unrealistic [in my experience].

  5. The film seems pretty realistic to me. This review has obviously been wriiten by a right-on socialist type.

    I have a friend in Moscow who has seen the film and says you don’t get this sort of crime where he lives. The Russian police would just take these kids away and they would never been seen again. That’s what we need over here.

  6. I also disagree with the review. In my ‘youth’ (when I was 21) – mid-late nineties, I worked extensively with young people, charities and support networks for young people who drank and drugged their way into oblivion and carried out quite shocking crimes, joy riding, thefts, beatings, break-ins. These people had no meanigful role models – no father figure. The Mother’s were often substance abusers out of desperation for their own plight – they had very little time for their kids. They looked to their young, immature male children to fulfill the adult male role. These kids were set up to fail and they were very angry about it, even if they didn’t understand fully why. I thought the film got a lot of it right. Senseless, illogical acts. The self harming, acting out. The desperation of everyone including the Police. Even down to the cowardice of the kids when on their own and having to ‘man up’ after being confronted. They don’t know how to do it because they’ve never been shown what it is to be a responsible adult and the rewards that go with it. Wait until they have kids and repeat the behaviours of their parents! As for the Russian result, I believe that’s what we did in Victorian times. Britain today accepting that? You can’t tell a mothet-in-law joke. Oh no, this one is going straight over the edge at full speed!

  7. Beth you are on the money – what a beat up. Where is the CCTV that pervades the developed world in the noughties? Fascist and sexist – just like all good vigilantes – is how I would describe this movie.

  8. Actually, there is quite a bit of character development in the film, to include the so-called “villains”. At no point did I think of Harry Brown’s victims as the sort of one-dimensional targets one would see in a “Death Wish” film. It certainly does not glorify “fascism” – but it does bring disrepute on the sort of policies that make the idea of vigilantism look like the lesser of evils. And finally, it does not villanize the youngest and poorest, but rather those that habitually prey on poverty and youth – people who clearly are not depicted as being either monolithically young or poor in the film.

    I think this review unfairly and deliberately mis-characterized what is a very good movie. Were only American movies of this sort as objectively minded and as well thought out. Of course, absolutely brilliant work by Mr. Caine – but also, excellent performaces by Mortimer, Creed-Miles, and especially Ben Drew. Very well done.

  9. I think the point is that its a movie…..not a documentary. The fact that it made you feel anything at all means that it was successful. Life can be better than Harry Brown depicts it but it can also be a lot worse. The youths aren’t just depicted as reckless criminals but as children who have been fucked up their entire lives.

  10. Ha. What say you now after the UK riots in the summer of 2011? Art reflects life or life reflects art? Your ignorance of the careless brutality of Britain’s yob culture matches your Marxist talking points about oppression. Wake up, honey. The cradle to grave welfare state has created an element of society who cares for nothing other than satisfying their own immediate desires, as always on somebody else’s dime.

  11. My niece has just returned from England. She was walking in broad daylight near Trafalgar Sq when she was hit from behind and a gang of youths then beat her up. No one came to her aid. This happened a week before the riots. I, like a lot of people, are fed up with decent kids and adults having to live in a society that tollerates mob rule.

  12. This is what it is like in many parts of the UK. I have seen these kinds of things on many housing estates in England. It is thoroughly unpleasant.

  13. Brilliant review. Daniel Barber collectively represents the youths as luridly violent thugs, yet he doesn’t explain why they are like this as he does not allow them to have their own personalities. They are seen as animals rather than humans. The comments on this page clearly show the effect that moral panics can have on an audience and the strength of the common youth stereotype. I am not being ignorant, as I know that such crime does happen, It just strikes me how the film takes the worst out of the teenagers. With the growing fear of teenagers and hoodies in Britain, these largely exaggerated representations (as for the opening scene..) are the last thing our country needs.

    The working class and youth culture is often shown negatively by the likes of higher class producers like Barber, but we rarely see the faults of the upper class in films.. might be something to do with them wanting to maintain their hegemonic dominance.

    Don’t believe it all, find out for yourself, check before you spread ahahahhah
    P.Weller knows what he’s on about, lad

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