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Harry Brown (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 22, 2010 by  



Compelling, gripping and an overall, an exciting film that showcases a wonderful performance from Michael Caine.  If you enjoyed vigilante-style films such as “Gran Torino” or “The Brave One”, definitely give “Harry Brown” a chance!

Images courtesy of © 2009 Harry Brown Film Limited and UK Film Council. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Harry Brown

FILM RELEASE DATE: 2009

DURATION: 103 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1), English and French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Hindi

COMPANY: Samuel Goldwyn Home Entertainment/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (For Strong Violence and Language Throughout, Drug Use and Sexual Content)

RELEASE DATE: August 31, 2010

Directed by Daniel Barber

Screenplay by Gary Young

Executive Producer: Reno Antoniades, Paul Brett, Tim Haslam, Christos Michaels, Steve Norris, Tim Smith

Producer: Keith Bell, Matthew Brown, Kris Thykier, Matthew Vaughn

Line Producer: David Higginson

Music by Ruth Barrett, Martin Phipps

Cinematography by Martin Ruhe

Edited by Joe Walker

Casting by Daniel Hubbard

Production Design by Kave Quinn

Art Direction by Chris Lowe

Set Decoration by Gemma Ryan

Costume Design by Jane Petrie

Starring:

Michael Caine as Harry Brown

Emily Mortimer as D.I. Alice Frampton

Charlie Creed-Miles as D.S. Terry Hicock

David Bradley as Leonard Attwell

Iain Glen as S.I. Childs

Sean Harris as Stretch

Ben Drew as Noel Winters

Jack O’Connell as Marky

Jamie Downey as Carl

Lee Oaks as Dean

Joseph Gilgun as Kenny

Liam Cunningham as Sid Rourke

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).

Trailer

Vigilante Pensioner

The Problem

Just Kids

In 2009, the vigilante film from the UK titled “Harry Brown” makes its way to the US on Blu-ray and DVD.

The film is directed by Daniel Barber (“The Tonto Woman”) and written by Gary Young (“The Tournament”, “The Last Drop”, “Shooters”) and is a vigilante film that stars Michael Caine (“The Cider House Rules”, “Hannah and Her Sisters”, “Sleuth”, “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”) and Emily Mortimer (“The Pink Panther”, “Paris, je t’aime”, “Elizabeth”, Transsiberian”).

The film takes place in the UK where crime has been running rampant in South London.  Young people are being initiated to gangs, drug dealings are done in public and an incident is shown of a group recording themselves on a shooting spree and killing a mother walking her baby in stroller a parkway.

We then meet Harry Brown (played by Michael Caine), an elderly former Royal Marine and North Ireland veteran whose wife is comatose and is hospitalized.  Each day, Harry goes to visit her at the hospital,  a short cut would be going through the tunnel area under the bridge.  Problem is, that area is where most of the gang members hang out and anyone going close by there and has no business around that area tend to get beaten up or killed.  So, Harry usually takes the long route to go there.

Harry’s wife passes away and all he has left is his best friend Leonard (played by David Bradley).  But Leonard is scared of his life.  Leonard tells Harry about  the problems he is experiencing with the bad kids who continually to harass him and to protect himself, Leonard has his knife with him.

On that same day, Leonard finds the kids trying to kill him by putting something under his door which has caught and fire and trying to kill him with the smoke and Leonard manages to stop the fire and leave the apartment screaming to those kids who did this to him.

The next morning, Harry is visited by Detective Inspector Alice Frampton (played by Emily Mortimer) and Sergeant Terence (played by Charlie Creed Miles) who tell him the bad news that Leonard has been killed near a subway route.  And the police want to know if there is anything or any information that Harry may have.  Harry explains that his friend was being harassed and hopes the police can find the murderers.

We then see how much work the detectives have put into interrogating the young thugs but no one is commenting or not saying anything about the death of Leonard.

As Harry mourns his good friend by getting drunk at a pub, while he leaves, he is stopped by a mugger who holds a knife to him and is demanding his money.  In self defense, Harry uses his military skill and ends up killing the mugger.

He is visited by Detective Alice Frampton once again and tells him that they are unable to find anyone and she tries to find out if he has any information of how Leonard may have died and Harry tells her how scared he was and how he had went to the police but they did nothing.  Alice tells him that the killers may never be caught and this angers Harry.

And from this point on, Harry decides to take matters to his own hand and become a vigilante.  To find the killer(s) of Leonard but also to remove some thugs off the street.

VIDEO:

“Harry Brown” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1).  Picture quality is very well done.  You can see the detail and skin pores of the characters, blood can be seen with detail, especially the detail of scars, tattoos, the injuries to the detail of the grungy, graffiti dominated walls and old apartments in rundown areas featured in the film.

Certain scenes are quite vibrant and colorful but most of the film is shot at night, in dark and dilapidated areas.  Overall, good amount of detail, blacks are nice and deep and very well-done cinematography by Martin Ruhe (“The Countess”, “Linear”).

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Harry Brown” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA.  The lossless audio for this film is fantastic.  The gun sounds that are captured on screen are very crisp, loud and clear!  Surround use is well done as we can hear crowd ambiance, telephone ringing so clear that you think it may be coming from your own house,  a television in the background to various sounds that are utilized through the film.

Dialogue is absolutely crisp and clear through the center channels and front channels are well-done in capturing the various gun sounds to windows being destroyed, vehicles crashing into each other and in one scene, this churning of sound that is captured throughout the whole room utilize the surround channels and LFE.  Overall, a good use of the lossless soundtrack!

Subtitles are in English and English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Harry Brown” comes with the following special features in high definition, English stereo and subtitles in English:

  • Audio Commentary with Director Daniel Barber, Producer Kris Thukier and Michael Caine –  An informative and hilarious audio commentary.  Director Daniel Barber and Kris Thukier set up the various scenes and discuss filming in various area and Michael Caine brings his humor to the commentary.
  • Deleted Scenes – (17:08) Featuring seven deleted scenes.  Interesting to see some scenes that would have worked for the film but the boom mic’s can be seen on the top.
  • movieIQ+sync (logo) and BD-Live connect you to real-time information on the cast, music, trivia and more while watching the movie!

With similar films such as “Gran Torino” starring Clint Eastwood to “The Brave One” starring Jodie Foster, “Harry Brown” takes a familiar concept but this time taking place in a crime-infested area of London where gang violence or drug pushers have taken control of public areas, putting fear into those living in the area and innocent people are beaten or murdered and not even the police are there to defend the peace.  Who else to defend the peace than one man’s act of vigilante-ism.  Welcome to “Harry Brown”.

With “Harry Brown”, Michael Caine pulls of a fantastic performance and that certain situations can drive a man from law-abiding citizen to becoming a vigilante.  He’s simply had enough of the violence that has plagued his neighborhood and after the film had screened in the UK, many people took to the forums and it was an interesting split of people who felt the world needs more people like Harry Brown and others who felt that there was no way an elderly man with emphysema can become a vigilante.

Needless to say, Gary Young has crafted a screenplay that is not only gripping, violent and literally draws you in (as you want to see Michael Caine really want to get back at the thugs) but the only way they were going to strike a chord with the general audience is that you have to show how things have gotten out of hand and how even the police are having their difficulties.

But where we have seen these problems unfold on the local news in metropolitan areas nearly everyday, many of us here in America may wonder, is this problem in London really that bad?  The more I started to do my research on South and East London, the more I started to learn about the racial divide, how people were being forced to move away because of race and it has gotten so bad that the drug problem and crime has taken control of an area.  Many Londoners have said that things have gotten out of hand in those areas that the character of Harry Brown really hit a nerve with many people who have had enough of the crime.

With that being said, I thought the film was smartly crafted but towards the third arc, that is where the film started to get far out there and without spoiling the film, as much as that third arc became a gripping and violent, the film strayed from what possibly can happen with a man turning vigilante and the cops suspecting him for murder to a film that was like a scene out of “Black Hawk Down” where there is just violence all over the city, the police were like soldiers venturing into an area of uncertainty and there was no decorum.  The police look as if they were overtaken by the criminals and the characters that we have rooted for become victims.

The ending does work, it’s just a bit farfetched and things get off to easy.  I can go into detail and become a bit nitpicky about that third arc, but I would be spoiling the film.  So, I’ll leave it to the viewer to determine how they feel about the final half hour of the film.

But I did enjoy the film and to see the character of Harry Brown change to a vigilante was very cool.  Michael Caine is a fantastic actor and by no means did the filmmakers try to turn his elderly character to the Punisher or anything like that.  His performance was wonderful.  Emily Mortimer’s character as Detective Alice Frampton is a character that had its potential but to tell you the truth, I don’t think the writers did any justice towards her character.  She has the potential to be a strong woman and instead she becomes a weak victim and it’s not the way how I expected her character to be played out at the end.   So, as much as the performances and the cinematography were well-done, part of my problem was with the actual screenplay and primarily for that third act.

I have to say that the young talent playing the criminals did a wonderful job in their interrogation scenes.  I don’t know how much of it was improvised but young talent Ben Drew did a wonderful job playing Noel Winters dishing it, making it feel real and showing his disgust towards the police and to see that cocky, F-U attitude was pretty impressive.

As for the Blu-ray release, you do get an entertaining, informative and hilarious audio commentary by director Daniel Barber, producer Kris Thykier and Michael Caine and you get several deleted scenes and that is about it.  I was hoping to see more featurettes from behind-the-scenes of the filming of the movie, interviews with the cast, Michael Caine preparing for this role.  Just something extra would have been nice but you do get a few special features rather than none.

Overall, “Harry Brown” is a gripping, compelling vigilante film that really showcases Michael Caine’s talent and to show him in a different kind of film which many viewers have never seen him play before.  The cinematography was really well done and it was good play of colors during those night scenes that were well-done as well.  Despite my feeling that the third act became a bit too chaotic and like the London has reached Armageddon, if you get past that and just take the film as a whole, I had an enjoyable time watching this film.

If you are a fan of films such as “Gran Torino” or “The Brave One” and you enjoy the acting of Michael Caine, I definitely recommend giving “Harry Brown” a chance!






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