It’s sometimes easy to poke fun at Michael Caine and the choices he’s made as an actor: if it was set in a sunny location, he’d do it, regardless of the awfulness of the script.
His screen presence is often so relaxed you sometimes wonder if is he acting at all., which of course is a sign of how bloody good an actor he is.
And then there is the voice, so easily imitated:
In Harry Brown Caine gives a terrific performance. He plays the title role, a widower and retired Royal Marine living in a depressed housing estate in a part of London that tourists seldom see. With the estate ruled by drug dealers, the residents of the estate cower in their miserable flats. When Harry’s friend is killed, he decides to go all Get Carter on them.
It is a remarkably good vigilante film and never feels exploitative in the way that the Death Wish movies did. The director cast unknown non-actors in key roles to portray some of the local villains, and they are fantastic in it.
Verdict: It maintains its weapon.
Harry Brown is worth watching in a double-bill with Gran Torino, another film where a pensioner decides he’s had enough of local hoods. Clint Eastwood is a widower, a racist Korean war veteran and a retired factory worker living in economically depressed Detroit. His only love is his beloved Gran Torino car. When youths from the local Hmong gang bother him and his Hmong neighbours, he gets out the shotgun and … well, gets all Dirty Harry on them.
Like Harry Brown, Gran Torino uses unknown non-actors in key roles. One of Clint’s best performances, a valuable reminder that there is a lot more to him than this:
Verdict: It’ll stack you five feet high and use you for sandbags.