The underdog triumphs
After the tornado of violence that opens Harry Brown, we meet the title character and are lead to believe that he is an old man with not much fight left in him. But my, how things change when he takes matters into his own hands in the name of justice by drawing on his experiences as a young man based in Northern Ireland with the Royal Marines. Does anyone not feel joy when underdogs of the admirable kind bite back after being pushed to the limit? Especially when their actions are for the common good?
Sir Michael Caine
My throat constricted and tears threatened at about the 12-minute mark, such is the power of Sir Michael Caine’s performance as Harry. And he just kept getting more compelling. What a joy to see him, now in his 80s, in such a kick-arse lead role. Watching him is a lesson in acting. Caine has won two BAFTAs (lifetime achievement and Educating Rita), two Golden Globe Awards (Educating Rita, Little Voice) and two Oscars (The Cider House Rules, Hannah and Her Sisters). Now that’s recognition.
Putting aside Caine and his character, the film as a whole is a great example of the hard-bitten, gritty English council estate crime genre. The stillness of some scenes and the testosterone and drug fuelled action of others is very skilfully handled, the pace doesn’t let up, and all the performances are great. Scriptwriter Gary Young and director Daniel Barber deserve praise. Want to see an adorable photo of Barber and Caine? Look here at Barber’s entry on imdb.com.
It would be wrong to talk about Harry Brown without mentioning the power and menace that Ben Drew draws on to portray the young punk Noel Winters. But it is also a nuanced performance, with flashes of vulnerability, that makes you think about that phrase “like father, like son” – and like uncle, like nephew. Want to see a video that combines the musical and acting prowess of Drew – also known as Plan B – and gives a taste of the film? Look here also on imdb.com.
There’s another character here with an underdog edge: the young, diligent, quietly determined detective Alice Frampton, who is battling sexism from both her junior partner and her superior. “This escalating violence is down to a vigilante pensioner?” the superintendent asks her sarcastically. Emily Mortimer plays Frampton with disarming sensitivity and intelligence, and although the character doesn’t triumph in the film, you know she’s going to.
Harry Brown makes you glad you can walk out your front door and generally not feel in danger.
Watch 'Harry Brown'
Saturday 13 February, 9:35pm on SBS
Now streaming at SBS On Demand
Director: Daniel Barber
Starring: Michael Caine, Ben Drew, Jack O'Connell, Emily Mortimer