That Caine is able to embody a man of frustration and sadness whose inaction turns to violent action with fluidity and pathos is a testament to the talent of the man and the capability of the film’s director Dabiel Barber.
Make no mistake, Harry Brown is a long and hard look into the dark heart of British society, and no one can stare into it for too long without closing up into self-defeating denial or taking a stand. Complex and unafraid, this is so much more than a British Gran Torino.
Barry reviewed the film on release and you can read his take on Harry Brown here and I’m going to give my verdict here on the DVD experience.
Daniel Barber’s first feature is brutal, and sets out its play with a truly nasty opening scene utilising the device of a video shot on a mobile phone camera and instantly we are thrown into a world which, despite the Daily Mail hysterics, actually exists and one that is not often shown on screen.
I believed in the passion Barber and the assembled cast and crew had for this story, as there is an urgency and willingness to show life on the estates of London as bleak and slow and Barber’s camera begins as voyeuristic as Harry himself, standing by while the gang of kids harass, deal drugs and kill unconcerned while the police do nothing.
We follow Harry’s journey from fear, to nervous action to determined revenge and all the while our morals are kept in check the unrelenting cast of nasties who patrol the run down estate, and when the violence is handed out by Brown there is nothing we as an audience can do except watch its awful cycle play out.
And it is mesmerising, and it is uncomfortable and some people will not want to see this play out, but a stunning turn from Caine and great support from Liam Cunningham, Ben Drew and Emily Mortimer make this a raw and relevant film, with some standout scenes (the drug den is a great example, and include a line every bit as iconic as any in Caine’s career) and an inventive use of camera and location that elevates this one. It is highly recommended.
The DVD and Blu-ray extras are comprised of:
Interviews with cast and crew
Feature audio commentary with Sir Michael Caine, director Daniel Barber and producer Kris Thykier
And it is the commentary which provides the most enjoyment, though having the three men laugh and joke their way through such a bleak film is an unusual contrast but Caine especially is a great voice and his anecdotes about this film and others in his long career make for a very entertaining watch.