Maurice Joseph Micklewhite, Jr.’s (Caine’s real name which he always uses when not acting)once again turns in a brilliant performance. Yet again he outshines all other actors in the film Harry Brown which is now showing at cinemas nationwide. This wonderful film is directed by English director Daniel Barber who was nominated for an Academy Award in 2008 for his short film The Tonto Woman.
Now Barber has presented us with a wonderful masterpiece called Harry Brown. In this film we are introduced to a world of drug-fuelled gratuitous violence which takes place on a council estate that is controlled by young thugs who have the residents terrorised. Harry (Michael Caine) is a former marine living on the estate. The film opens with a very realistic and heart-rending scene where Harry wakes up in a double bed and is greeted by the empty space beside him where once his dying wife used lie. His loneliness and pain are palpable. We learn that is wife is in hospital dying a slow and painful death. At first, the ex-marine keeps his head down and doesn't interact with the gangs. He continues to live a quiet uneventful life and enjoys a quiet pint and a game or two of chess with his friend Len.
One possible criticism I could lay at the door of Barber is that this film in a sense "rips off" an aspect of the theme of Clint Eastwood's great Gran Torino - that is, an ex-marine or ex-soldier sorting out contemporary crime caused by gang warfare. However, that is a small criticism of a very good and entertaining film.
Now back to the plot: Soon Harry's wife dies and this is followed closely by Len's murder at the hands of the gang. It is at this point that our former marine becomes a vigilante and takes on the gangs. This is a grim film indeed, but for all that, very credible and all too likely to be true. Emily Mortimer comes across as a very naive and all too sensitive and emotinal Detective Inspector Frampton. One could never imagine a police inspector being so emotionally upset by her job. To my mind the director underwrote her completely. That said, she put in a good performance, which would have been transformed by firmer direction. This for me is a major weakness in the film as she is not believable at all as a police officer. The supporting cast are also noteworthy. Liam Cunningham, a very strong Irish actor, is simply wonderful as the barman Sid. Cunningham turns in a performance as strong as the one he presented us with in that great film The Wind that Shakes the Barley(2006).
However, it is Michael Caine who steals the show with absolutely brilliant acting. It would seem that as this veteran actor gets older and older he gets better and better. He turns is a very creidible and indeed creditable performance. Mike Sheridan has this to say in a recent review and I thoroughly agree with his sentiments:
Director Daniel Barber deserves credit for keeping the film grounded very much in reality, never descending to the hyperbolic fighting of something like Taken. Caine is in his 70’s now, so it probably wouldn’t have been a wise move for him to attempt some hand-to-hand combat. What he does is portray the obvious vulnerability of your average pensioner and the efficiency of a man who has killed before wonderfully. You are on this man's side from the start, despite the extreme measures he goes to, and Caine deserves an Oscar nomination for his brilliant performance. (See this link here: Review )All in all this is a film well worth seeing for its realistic portrayal of contemporary society, but especially for its performance by one of the world's greatest living actors.