Now Showing at: Esquire Theatre.
Review by: Larry Thomas
Some pleasures in life are irrestible…a dip in the pool on a hot day; fresh homegrown tomatoes; or just about any film starring the great Michael Caine. This talented actor, with 150 films to his credit, is still going strong even when venturing into familiar territory. His latest outing is Harry Brown, an oft-told tale pitting a senior citizen against a gang of vicious drug dealers in the London slums. If you were to sum up the plot in one sentence, think, “Jack Carter’s grandfather meets Death Wish.” Jack was Caine’s character in the terrific 1971 version of Get Carter.
As the film progresses, we’re given all the information needed to know where it’s going and how it will get there. Originality is not the strong suit of Harry Brown, but that is redeemed by…you’ll pardon the expression…the execution. Daniel Barber directs for only the second time in his fledgling career, and screenwriter Gary Young has but four other credits. Both are out to prove that they can capably replicate that which has gone before. There’s a scene in which Caine goes to two of the dealers on the pretense of buying a gun. Most of the action in that transaction is taken from Taxi Driver, and even has a line of dialogue from Dr. No.
The supporting cast is comprised of several talented thespians. Emily Mortimer, from the current Shutter Island and City Island, is fine as the police inspector with a heart. David Bradley, probably best known as Argus Filch in the Harry Potter series, is Caine’s best friend. They go way back, and always play chess in the local pub.
Caine’s wife is in the hospital, with death as her only exit. His character has a background as a former Marine, who is familiar with warfare and firearms, both of which will serve him well as he trods the well-worn path of cinematic events.
While the plot is derivative and predictable, it’s handled with style. The projects, cheekily called “The Estates,” are foreboding dwellings and all the bad guys are properly scurrilous and evil. Most of them are young punks who have no hope or future. Both help make the film most unsettling, and despite the presence of the 77-year-old Caine in the lead, you should know that the levels of violence and language means it’s not a film for your Aunt Minerva.
Though there’s nothing in Harry Brown that hasn’t been seen or heard in other films, it is, at its heart, a labor of love for the director and writer. And it’s a labor of love for filmgoers to watch the living legend Sir Michael Caine once again on the big screen. And that is one of life’s pleasures.
The R-rated Harry Brown is currently showing at the Esquire Theatre.
As a postscript to my piece last week about films that have not yet arrived in Cincinnati, you should know that the performance art documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop opened on Friday at the Esquire, and Michael Douglas’s Solitary Man opens next Friday at the Mariemont. While I’ve not seen either, indications are both are worth your time.