In what may be a cinematic sin, I didn’t really have any recognition to Michael Caine’s name before Batman Begins came along. It turned out that I had seen several movies featuring him, but never put his name to memory. Since then, I have been admiring Caine’s brilliant ability to do a wide range of acting roles, never leaving himself to be confined to the possibility of type cast – even in his elder age. The last movie I saw him in was “Children of Men,” so with that impression left upon me it was something of a shock to see him take on a role that delves into the complete opposite and play a character that, if I recall right, never cracks a single smile throughout the entire movie.
Two time Academy Award(r) winner* MICHAEL CAINE (The Prestige, The Dark Knight) stars as Harry Brown. An ordinary, law-abiding citizen, who just wanted to quietly live out his retirement. But in this desolate urban wasteland, the residents live in fear of the drug dealers who rule the streets…and the police offers little protection. When Inspector Alice Frampton (EMILY MORTIMER, Shutter Island) can’t convict the thugs who killed Harry’s best friend, he decides to take the law into his own hands. Using skills honed as a Royal Marine, Harry begins to serve his own brand of justice– and no one will stop him. * Best Actor in a Supporting Role for THE CIDER HOUSE RULES (1999) and HANNAH and HER SISTERS (1986).
The film is sparse in its cadre of characters, leaving it pretty much focused on Michael Caine’s character Harry Brown and his simple life that just happens to become loosely tied to that of Detective Alice Frampton, played by Emily Mortimer. Interestingly the last movie I actually saw her in was as the love interest of Val Kilmer in “The Ghost and the Darkness” all the way back in 1996. The rest of the cast either doesn’t stick around long, or is made up of the film’s youthful antagonists, none of which seem to have been acting for very long in film. Despite that, most, if not all, performances throughout the movie deliver to the movie’s tone perfectly. Admittedly, I’m still on the fence as to whether the youthful cast truly captured their roles, and they were instructed to be exactly that vile, or if their inexperience may have exaggerated things. Either way, it really doesn’t take anything away from the movie, and makes you appropriately despise the vileness of the movie’s bit of villainy.
Although the film lacks some originality in the general premise of the plot, in which revenge manages to motivate an ex-soldier into taking action, it manages to capture an unsuspecting uniqueness in its execution. This is mostly chalked up to Michael Caine’s ability to craft a mixture of subtlety and badassery to his “pensioner” character, creating a sympathetic allure to Harry Brown despite the dark twist the movie takes. It has its fair share of problems, mostly the lack of explanation of a few things, such as the oddity of Harry Brown managing to get through a riot with ease. We’re well informed that he is ex-military, with a hinted extensive and action-filled history, but we don’t really see him using any sort of special tactics while in the heart of the riot.
Overall, it’s a very enjoyable movie with a steady pace that really leaves you unsure of how far it is going to go. There was a level of very unexpected violence with the occasional spurting of blood that felt a bit exaggerated at least a couple times, but if you don’t mind that sort of thing then it’s not a hindrance as there is only a few scenes that involve blood. I Highly Recommend this to any fan of Michael Caine (that isn’t squeamish) or fans of revenge/drama movies.
Sony releases Harry Brown in single disc Elite Blu-ray case without any fancy frills about it. Menus are simple and easy to navigate and…well, that’s it. No digital or PSP copies of the film, just the single Blu-ray disc and that’s it.
The AVC encoded presentation accurately portrays the films dark and dank visual style, which means that you don’t get a whole lot of brilliant visuals to lay your eyes on—in fact the nighttime sequences are as close to black as you can possibly get. There have been some intentional contrast tweaks to further enhance the films visuals, but you only notice this on a few occasions because, again, the film is bloody dark. There were a few moments in the film where it looked like some DNR was applied to lighten up the grain, but other than that it’s as good as a pitch black transfer is going to get. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix is predictably subdued and mostly located in the front channels, but it does have a bit of a bite to it when it comes to LFE output—but like Harry Brown, he only seems to unleash his inner bad ass when he needs to, so don’t expect the entire film to be rumbling the house.
Filmmaker and Cast Commentary
The extras aren’t quite as plentiful as they could’ve been, but it’s still an adequate dosage of them. Deleted scenes are pretty brief and a set of interviews (around forty minutes worth) were apparently left off that were included on the UK release, but at least the commentary with director Daniel Barber, producer Kris Thykier and Michael Caine was ported over. It’s not all that surprising that the extras are so few, but the commentary is definitely a welcome addition and helps it keep from feeling completely empty.
Overall a Recommended disc.
Harry Brown is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.
Film review by Andrew
Blu-ray review by Zach Demeter