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It’s hard to watch Harry Brown and not think of Gran Torino, but where Eastwood’s movie is subtle and emotional Michael Caine’s is pure, stripped-down, vengeance. He plays Harry Brown, an ex-badass who has successfully buried his violent side in order to play the quiet, gentle husband for his beloved wife. After decades dancing the dance of a mild-mannered citizen, Brown’s wife dies, and the now very elderly ex-marine unleashes the killer inside.
Caine, as you’d expect, is utterly believable as Brown. The movie makes it a point to keep this realistic. Harry is an elderly gentleman, he doesn’t suddenly bust out into kung fu. But even his creaking body is up to dealing with the two-bit thugs who have infested his neighborhood. They murder Harry’s only friend and when the police prove powerless (though sexy, hello Emily Mortimer) he starts to see the his neighborhood for the crime-ridden hellhole it is. He takes matters into his own hands by hunting down the asshole punks who killed his buddy and to do it, burns them and batters a series of bad seeds out of hiding.
The film fits perfectly on a bookshelf next to other recent entries in this genre. It’s most akin to Jodie Foster’s The Brave One and similar to but a lot better than Kevin Bacon’s Death Sentence. We’ve seen a lot from the ultra-real vigilante genre, but when the movie’s lead is as good as Caine, it’s impossible to be bored with it. Harry Brown is a vicious entry into the tried and true revenge formula. Michael Caine, no matter how old he gets, will always be able to kick your butt.
Check out Michael Caine in full on vengeance mode in these Cinema Blend exclusive stills from Harry Brown: