Monday, 16 May 2011

Harry Brown: My first DVD review

So far, with the exception of two or three articles, I have been predominantly focusing on spoiler free cinema release reviews.  This is not reflective of my viewing habits, so, with a view to writing more I'm going to start a series of DVD recommendations.  I'm going to try and depend less on marks out of ten so much because that system makes it difficult to be objective, instead I will finish each review with a why you should and why you should not see a film section too.  Also, there may be a spoiler or two in there, although I will give you advance warnings.  So without further ado, here's Harry Brown.

Ken Loach has for a long time been a favorite of mine, his gritty truthful takes on 20/21st century Britain leave you both desperate and nostalgic.  During the first half of this film Daniel Barber (in his so far only feature film) does a very similar job, and does it well.  

We meet Harry Brown, his wife in hospital, taking the long way round to be with her, avoiding the local youth.  Lingering shots of his lonely life, struggling out of bed, eating solemn meals.  Drinking alone in the local pub, waiting for his only friend to join him for a game of chess. ** SPOILER START **  Without giving too much of the game away, Harry soon loses his wife, he witnesses a violent attack in the courtyard outside his Elephant and Castle tower block flat, and then to top it all his only his friend taken from him.  While mourning, a drunken Harry becomes the victim of an attempted mugging.  Exit Ken Loach enter Guy Ritchie.  This really is where a line is drawn in the film.  Michael Caine's expression leaves Harry Brown behind and becomes Jack Carter all over again.  Shots go from brown and grey and start to include stalking, horror inspired, dark frames tinted with ambers, reds and blues.  Harry becomes sadistic in his plight to gain vengeance, as he get's a view deeper and deeper into London's violent undercurrent he becomes more and more his former Marine self, but where will it all end? ** SPOILER END **

Largely the acting is superb, Michael Cain delivers convincing performances on both sides of his persona.  David Bradley (the caretaker in Harry Potter)'s desperate performance tugs at the heart strings.  Emily Mortimer (Lars and the Real Girl) is good, but as a detective that has requested this, one of the worst beats in London lacks development.  Plan B (Ben Drew) is unbelievable when put besides such fine acting talent, for one whose career is built on modern British youth dialect/accent his delivery seems contrived and unnatural.  The best performances in the film come from Sean Harris and Joseph Gilgun who are scarily believable, while I hope a little over the top in their depictions of drug/arms dealers.

DVD extras are pretty good, the commentaries are candid and often funny and the interviews give perspective to the area in which the film is shot.

If you like gangster or retribution films, you'll like this, it's a like a hard Gran Torino or Kidulthood meets Get Carter.

If you like Ken Loach then the second half will let you down, so don't expect your perfect film.

I very much liked it. 


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