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When a group of drug-dealing gang members takes the life of his only friend, Leonard, retired Marine and widower Harry Brown decides to take matters into his own hands. The plot is straight forward and is quite frankly predictable. The twists and turns aren't shocking and can easily be guessed as the film progresses. The screenplay is decent and there aren't many complaints to be given concerning dialogue, but there are times that it feels like a cliché revenge flick. Pacing is smooth as the story moves along fairly rapidly. Once the vigilante scenes begin, they don't let up. The sequences of Harry Brown carrying out his acts of revenge are brutal and relentless. This isn't a watered down thriller as it isn't afraid to be vicious. While these segments are entertaining, I couldn't connect to characters as well as in films with similar subject matter. With the exception of Harry Brown, the characters are trite to their cores. More depth could have been added to the characters and the story in order to keep a strong connection with the viewers.
The biggest strength behind Harry Brown is clearly its cast. In fact, I feel that this would have ended up as just another revenge flick without the lead. Michael Caine performs as Harry Brown and delivers mesmerizing results. He manages to convey emotions that are raw, yet controlled at the same time. He gives a passionate performance that certainly shows. Emily Mortimer does well in her role has D.I. Alice Frampton. While none of the actors were able to pour the amount of depth into a character as Michael Caine, the cast is acceptable as supporting roles. I could easily rant concerning Caine as Harry Brown for quite some time. As always, he gives a role that will be memorable to audiences after the credits have rolled.
While this is a film with the theme of revenge, this definitely isn't an action film. Harry Brown has a deeper message than just blowing these bad guys away. The atmosphere given is dark and gritty. A lot of the screen time takes place in this horrid part of town that's covered in robberies, riots, and any other crime you can think of. Director Daniel Barber manages the camera well with interesting shots to be seen throughout. Nothing is warm or comforting within the general atmosphere. There are some scenes that may cause some audiences to be disturbed. None of this violence is watered down and is shown in all of its bloody glory. For a revenge film, the budget is relatively low. The filmmakers used their money effectively as there are no complaints to be said about the cinematography and visuals overall.
Ultimately, Harry Brown could have been better than it turned out. This isn't a bad film by any means, but Gran Torino was able to use a similar plot and proved to be more effective. The predictability of the entire plot hurts the movie since each and every move made by characters can be easily guessed by viewers. Michael Caine separates the movie from being just another vigilante flick. While this is entertaining from start to finish, the ending proved to be disappointing. For those who have a weak stomach should be made aware that there is strong violence. Harry Brown was a good directorial debut for Daniel Barber and is worth watching, even if it's only for Michael Caine's stunning performance.