Jodie Foster, Kevin Bacon, and Liam Neeson have all done their part in recent years to keep the Charles Bronson vigilante spirit alive. Now it’s Michael Caine’s turn in Harry Brown. That’s right folks; this movie is basically just Death Wish in
Caine plays Harry Brown, a sullen old man who just lost his wife. When a gang of thugs murder his only friend, it leaves him a bitter and broken man. Then there’s only one thing left for Harry to do: Paint the ghetto red.
This flick certainly earns an A+ in terms of audience manipulation. There’s a moving scene where Caine wakes up in bed the day after his wife dies and gently touches her pillow. We also get a tender scene where Caine stares longingly into the box of military paraphernalia he put away decades earlier before starting on his quest for vengeance. But by far the most effective scene comes when he goes to his friend’s funeral. We see a huge procession coming into the cemetery with lots of flowers and then… they drive right past his buddy’s lonely service where Caine is the sole mourner looking over his friend’s grave. Damn, that scene was cold.
Harry Brown is an absorbing and worthwhile vigilante picture yet the police detective subplot kinda slows things down. There’s also a scene where the ineffective riot squad invades the ghetto that eats up a lot of screen time. The villains are pretty weak too and the main guy is a bit of a wimp. He’s definitely no Fraker from Death Wish 3 or anything.
All of these are just minor complaints though. What really matters is Caine’s performance. In a career riddled with as many lows as highs, his work as Harry Brown ranks as one of his highest. Not only is he excellent in this film, but he gets off a lot of good kills that would make Charlie B. himself proud. The best one is when he splatters a gay dude’s brains seconds after he received a hum job. Talk about coming and going at the same time.
Harry Brown guns his way onto The Video Vacuum Top Ten Films of the Year at the Number 9 spot, which places him right below Busty Cops Go Hawaiian and just above Greenberg.