Rated R for strong violence and language throughout, drug use and sexual content, 103 minutes
"Harry Brown" is the British version of "Deathwish"
The new drama "Harry Brown" could easily be summed up as "Dirty Harry Brown." This revenge flick from across the pond is essentially Clint Eastwood or Charles Bronson reimagined as an old codger that resembles Michael Caine. The magnificent Caine turns in another riveting performance and carries the entertaining film above a few plotholes and predictable turns.
Caine is Harry Brown, an elderly man living in South London, which has been overcome with youth crime. Harry, a former marine, goes to see his dying wife on a daily basis and plays chess in the local pub with his best friend Len (David Bradley). Len is brutally murdered by some of the gang of young drug dealers led by Noel (Ben Drew) and the police investigation, led investigator Frampton (Emily Mortimer) turns up a dead end. As a result, Harry begins to take things in his own hands, randomly but violently bringing them down one by one, something that will either cause considerable destruction or bring peace to the neighborhood.
"Harry Brown" is an electric, violent movie fueled by an energetic performance 77-year old Caine in full Eastwood/Bronson mode, speaking softly and carrying a big gun. It's amusing to see him carry on a conversation with a drug dealer he's about to kill or turn the tables on a dealer on the street. Unsurprisingly, the best moments have Caine bringing down the thugs who are half his age and gleefully torturing them. Some of the backstory is a little convoluted, a little improbable and takes too many predictable particularly in the final act, but Caine is wholly believable, fully realized and often heartbreaking as the old vigilante who's fed up and taking what might be his last stand.
Directed with panache by documentary Oscar nominee Daniel Barber, written with gusto by British newcomer Gary Young and produced by Matthew Vaughn of the recent hit "Kick-Ass," the film has a low-grade, unsentimental and gritty feel to it. The biggest drawbacks are a predictable, bloody climax and some plotholes that make the police look mighty dumb, but the final scene with Caine standing over his now peaceful neighborhood is unforgettable. Definitely worth a look.