Thursday, January 20, 2011

Harry Brown Review

Harry Brown, 2009
Reviewed by: Dan S.
Directed by: Daniel Barber
Written by: Gary Young
Starring: Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, and Doug Bradley.
Language: English

Bleeding its average running time for all its worth, Harry Brown is a moody slow burner that builds and builds with sickening dread before ambushing the viewer with jubilant righteous violence and gritty tough guy action. Impressive debut director Daniel Barber establishes a paranoid detailed atmosphere of gloomy urban decay where threatening graffiti covers every wall, heavy shadows conceal unthinkable menace, and savage gang beatings leave random victims bloody messes on the pavement. The few uncompromising glimpses of harsh street life the film offers are more than enough as they are incredibly uncomfortable to watch. The mostly piano based ambient score is, not surprisingly, the unnerving atonal sound of a horror film. The action sequences that dominate the fast-paced second act are limited to brief bursts of realistic gun play that may lack flash, but are uncommonly intelligent and suspenseful.

Sparing us not even a single wrinkle, thinning white hair, or dry cough, Caine looks his years and then some. The helplessness he expresses during the initial stages of the movie is absolutely heart wrenching, but despite his frailties, he gives the impression of someone holding back a terrible darkness within himself. Even after he gradually regains the intimidating posture and icy stare of his classic gangster roles, great pains are taken to make him a credible threat, while still constantly reminding the viewer of his physical limitations and vulnerabilities. The supporting cast is top catch, a memorable rogues gallery of villains that range from pathetic junkie hustlers to cocky punks, and a terrifying drug dealer that looks like the bastard child of Charles Manson and Scott Wieland. The great David Bradley provides some powerful moments in a small, sympathetic part while the compassionate Emily Mortimer offers welcomed breaks from the harsh masculine brutality that dominates the film.


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