As blunt as its title, HARRY BROWN is a vigilante picture with senior citizen Michael Caine as the avenging angel. That’s the gimmick; and that’s about as far as it goes. His lower-class neighborhood is in decline, friends & relations are under assault, drugs & violence everywhere you look and the police seem unable or unwilling to take on the creeps. Sound familiar? Clint Eastwood had just taken on similar duties to far richer effect in GRAN TORINO/’08 which found Dirty Harry hitting old age as it touched on race bias, family ties, big city isolation and cross-cultural values. Plus, Clint even gets to be funny.* Hell, Charles Bronson was plugging baddies in DEATH WISH V when he was 73. As a gimmick, Grandpa Vigilante is commonplace. That said, the film is reasonably effective on its own terms, and there’s a nice turn from Emily Mortimer as a sympathetic detective who connects with Caine before connecting him to the payback attacks. Newbie helmer Daniel Barber tends to overcook the atmosphere, some drug-addled grotesques are too amusing to be much of a threat, but he holds to a pleasingly measured pace that fits the storyline. At least, until the messy last act which has to stretch to connect all the narrative dots.
DOUBLE-BILL: *Try this with GRAN TORINO and see if you agree.