Harry Brown, directed by Daniel Barber from a screenplay by Gary Young, stars elder British statesman Michael Caine as a pensioner who takes the death of his closest friend at the hands of local hooligans very personally. Emily Mortimer, in a somewhat-quiet role in which she still manages to exude no small amount of strength, plays the detective investigations his friend’s death and the subsequent murders of those who attacked him. With two actors of that caliber on opposite ends of a screenplay, it’s easy to ignore the frequent wallowing in stereotype the script happily engages in, particularly when it comes to The Youth of England. It’s through the two leads’ abilities and Barber”s visceral direction and methodical pacing (with no small help from Martin Ruhe’s camerawork) that Harry Brown becomes something engaging and smart. Particularly strong is the final act that lifts rest of the film’s mass up significantly by dint of having at least one actual surprise in it.
It’s a movie that’s easy to overpraise because when it works, it sings, but there’s still significant problems in how it enforces storytelling cliché and laziness on the part of movies that attempt social relevance, even if it is highly entertaining to watch Michael Caine wreak Old Testament havoc on his inferiors one more time.