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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Harry Brown (review)

Michael Caine as Dirty Harry? Well, not quite. Caine’s (The Dark Knight) Harry is just a nice old bloke who lives in a terrible London council estate — we’d call it a project — where open drug-dealing and blatant intimidation and violence by hoodie-wearing teens approaches a Clockwork Orange level. Harry’s been coping with it by ignoring it as best he can… but when he loses his wife and his best friend within days of each other — one to illness, the other to an attack by the kids — Harry takes up his old ex-Marine ways and plans to take back his home. What starts out as a poignantly observed portrait of the bitter loneliness of old age — director Daniel Barber has a keen eye for making the isolation sneak up on you and sting — turns into one of the most grounded depictions of conflicted vigilantism cinema has seen, the burst of shocking violence somehow less unsettling than the helplessness of the police (Emily Mortimer [City Island] is very fine as a detective who crosses Harry’s path) and the open hostility and arrogance of the wrongdoers. It may all be exaggerated for effect, but it neverthless feels all too real.


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MPAA: rated R for strong violence and language throughout, drug use and sexual content

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
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