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Daniel Barber
Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, Charlie Creed-Miles, David Bradley, Iain Glen, Sean Harris, Ben Drew
Writing Credits:
Gary Young

Every man has a breaking point.

Set in modern day Britain, Harry Brown follows one man's journey through a chaotic world where drugs are the currency of the day and guns run the streets. A modest law-abiding citizen, Harry Brown is a retired Marine and a widower who lives alone on a depressed housing estate. His only company is his best friend Leonard (David Bradley). When Leonard is murdered by a gang of thugs, Harry feels compelled to act and is forced to dispense his own brand of justice. As he bids to clean up the run-down estate where he lives, his actions bring him into conflict with the police, led by investigating officer DCI Frampton (Emily Mortimer) and Charlie Creed-Miles.

Box Office:
$7.3 million.
Opening Weekend
$173.353 thousand on 19 screens.
Domestic Gross
$1.818 million.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 103 min.
Price: $30.95
Release Date: 8/31/2010

• Audio Commentary with Director Daniel Barber, Producer Kris Thykier and Actor Michael Caine
• Seven Deleted Scenes
• Previews


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

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Harry Brown [Blu-Ray] (2009)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 24, 2010)

Films about vigilantes are nothing new, but we seem to be on the verge of a new genre: elderly bad-asses. Clint Eastwood dug into that concept with 2008’s Gran Torino, and now Michael Caine follows the same theme via 2010’s Harry Brown.

Retiree Harry Brown (Caine) finds himself pushed to the edge. His wife Kath (Liz Daniels) dies from cancer, and then his best pal Len (David Bradley) gets killed by young thugs. These gangs run wild through the streets, and no one seems willing or able to do anything about the state of lawlessness they create. Like everyone else, Harry turns a blind eye to all of the violence.

The police seem unable to stem the tide as well. Detective Inspector Alice Frampton (Emily Mortimer) can’t bring a conviction against the cretins who killed Len, so Harry finally wakes up and decides to take action. A former Royal Marine and with all his loved ones gone, Harry goes on a mission to take care of the problem that plagues his neighborhood.

Earlier I compared Brown to Gran Torino, but the two offer pretty different experiences. Yes, both deal with septuagenarian vigilantes who take on much younger foes, but that’s about it. Eastwood’s flick attempted to be something more than just Dirty Harry in Retirement. It attempted to confront prejudices, aging and other issues along with its dollop of “get off my lawn” violence.

On the other hand, Brown really doesn’t appear to aspire to give us more than bloody fantasy. Oh, I suspect the filmmakers want us to think there’s more to it than that, and perhaps they believe that it can spark debates about the nature of justice.

If those elements reside here, however, I think they get buried pretty deep beneath the surface. Much of Brown seems rather one-dimensional, starting with its characters. Even with a notable personality such as Caine in charge, Harry himself remains a bit of a cipher. Though motivated by grief and revenge, we don’t get a good feel for what makes Harry tick beyond those basic emotions.

And maybe that’s all the film wants us to see, but sadness and anger don’t do much to create a well-rounded lead character. Though the movie hints at Harry’s past and gives us glimmers of his personality, it does little with them. Harry’s essentially just an anonymous tool to motivate the movie’s action.

When that action arrives, it tends to be less than memorable. At its heart, I think Brown wants to be a gritty walk into darkness ala Se7en. Instead, however, it feels more like a tawdry wannabe ala 8mm. There’s a certain voyeuristic tendency here that just doesn’t work. The movie teases us with its graphic violence and seedy sights but doesn’t manage to dig any deeper.

In essence, Brown wants to condemn the nasty side of society it depicts while it tries to titillate us. That tendency to try to have it both ways undercuts much of the movie’s potential power and leaves it as little more than a one-dimensional vigilante fantasy.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus B-

Harry Brown appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. The transfer provided a very good image.

Sharpness seemed satisfying. A smidgen of softness crept into a few wide shots, but those remained minor. Nothing prevented the picture from a general sense of crispness. I noticed no issues with jaggies or shimmering, and edge enhancement caused no problems. Source flaws also failed to appear.

Brown went with a stylized palette. For the most part, it opted for chilly blues to accentuate the coldness of the environs or urine yellows to stress the ugliness. Within the parameters of those choices, the colors appeared well-defined. Blacks were dark and tight, while shadows seemed clear. This was a high-quality presentation.

I thought the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack boasted a good kick. The soundfield blended together well to create a good sense of place and movement, and it especially came to life during the movie’s action-oriented scenes. Elements like gunfire ricocheted around the room, and other environmental material proved satisfying. The film created a solid sense of streets, and some clubs and other interiors added nice pizzazz as well.

Audio always seemed positive. Music showed nice range and depth, with good clarity across the board. Effects appeared accurate and clean, with strong low-end; the louder elements boasted real power. Speech was concise and natural as well; accents could make lines a little tough to understand, but the recordings were fine. Overall, I felt very pleased with this dynamic mix.

The disc’s extras launch with an audio commentary from director Daniel Barber, producer Kris Thykier and actor Michael Caine. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. They discuss cast, characters and performances, sets and locations, camerawork, music and audio, and production anecdotes.

Many commentaries that involve actors disappoint, but Caine lives up to my hopes here. Though Barber and Thykier flesh out the shoot’s nuts and bolts, Caine adds most of the track’s spice. He offers some good acting insights as well as fun stories and thoughts. His presence helps make this an engaging piece.

Seven Deleted Scenes fill a total of 17 minutes, one second. These include “Scene of Crime” (3:09), “Len and Harry at Cemetery” (0:56), “Father Bracken” (3:57), “Ghost Wife” (1:25), “The Nature of Chess Pieces” (3:55), “Paedo” (3:34) and “Piss Poor Performance” (1:05). “Scene” gives us the first meeting between Frampton and Hicock; that makes it somewhat interesting, but in terms of content, it’s redundant, as it just offers personality hints that we get elsewhere. Some of the others are more compelling, especially the ones that add to Harry’s background. None become essential, but a few intriguing clips show up here.

An ad for The Experiment opens the disc. It also appears under Previews along with clips for The Square, Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day, Game of Death, A Single Man, and The Road. No trailer for Brown appears here.

The prospect of Michael Caine as an elderly vigilante certainly sounds intriguing. Unfortunately, Harry Brown bungles that premise. It just immerses us in seediness without much intelligence or redemption, so it meanders and lacks the expected bite. The Blu-ray boasts very good picture and audio along with supplements brightened by an enjoyable commentary. Chalk up Brown as a disappointing film but a good Blu-ray.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 4
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