x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Harry Brown: not for the faint-hearted

Given the graphic violence vigilante the lead character employs, and it certainly divided the critics, but there are moments when director Daniel Barber's bleak vision of urban social decay is captivating

Harry Brown

Director: Daniel Barber

Starring: Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, Ben Drew

Perhaps thanks to the British film industry's comparative lack of funding, they do gritty far better than Hollywood. In this debut full-length feature from the director Daniel Barber, Michael Caine plays Harry Brown, a pensioner living in a South London estate that has been ruined by gang warfare.

Quietly disgusted by the decay in humanity he sees around him, Brown spends his days visiting his dying wife in hospital and playing chess with his companion, Leonard. Filmed on the notorious, soon-to-be-demolished, Heygate Estate, where Caine spent his childhood, the poverty stricken community is overrun with criminal activity, most of which is overseen by the local thug Noel (Ben Drew, better known as the successful British singer Plan B).

Things eventually come to a violent head when Brown loses both his wife and best friend in a matter of days. The latter is murdered by Noel and his gang. Spurred on to rid the community of the forces of disorder, Brown turns vigilante. Caine is nothing short of perfect as the downtrodden pensioner-turned-executioner, but Drew and Emily Mortimer, who plays a disillusioned detective inspector, lend only adequate support. It's not for the faint-hearted, given the graphic violence Brown employs, and it certainly divided the critics, but nonetheless there are moments when Barber's bleak vision of urban social decay is captivating.