Harry Brown (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Daniel Barber|
|Produced by||Matthew Vaughn
|Written by||Gary Young|
|Music by||Martin Phipps
|Edited by||Joe Walker|
|Distributed by||Lionsgate UK|
|Box office||$10.3 million|
Harry Brown is a 2009 British vigilante action-thriller film directed by Daniel Barber and starring Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, Jack O'Connell, and Liam Cunningham. The story follows Harry Brown, a widowed Royal Marines veteran who had served in Northern Ireland during The Troubles, living on a London housing estate that is rapidly descending into youth crime. After a violent gang murders his friend, Harry decides to take justice into his own hands.
The film also features actor and rapper Plan B who, with Chase & Status, is also responsible for the film's theme music track "End Credits." Harry Brown had its World Premiere as a "Special Presentation" at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival and was released theatrically in the United Kingdom by Lionsgate UK on 11 November 2009; the film was released in the United States by Samuel Goldwyn Films and Destination Films on 30 April 2010. The film was mainly shot on and around the mostly abandoned Heygate Estate in Walworth, London, which was, at the time of filming, due to be demolished in late 2010 (demolition was eventually delayed and did not take place until early 2014). The subway scenes were shot at Marks Gate, Romford, Essex.
Harry Brown is an elderly pensioner who was once a decorated soldier in the Royal Marines, and a veteran of Northern Ireland. He lives on a London council estate ruled by violent gangs and spends most of his time playing chess with his friend, Len Attwell, at a local pub owned by Sid Rourke. When the hospital phones to tell him that his wife, Kath, is dying, Harry is too late because he is scared to take a shortcut through a narrow underpass, where a gang holds court. His wife is laid to rest next to the grave of their thirteen-year-old daughter, Rachel, who died in 1973.
Len confides to Harry that he is being terrorized by youths and shows him an old bayonet he now carries to defend himself; with the police unable to help, he plans to confront his harassers himself. The next day, Harry is visited by Detective Inspector Alice Frampton and Detective Sergeant Terry Hicock, who tell him that Len has been murdered. The police arrest Noel Winters, the leader of a drug-dealing gang, along with members Carl, Dean and Marky, but are released due to lack of evidence. Harry gets drunk after Len's funeral, and is then held at knife-point by Dean, who intends to rob him; Harry kills Dean with his own knife during a brief struggle. Frampton visits Harry in the morning to inform him that because Len was killed with his own bayonet, any charges could be reduced to manslaughter on the basis of self-defense, leaving Harry feeling angry and betrayed.
Harry follows a drug dealer, Kenny, to a den where he negotiates to buy a pistol. Inside, Harry finds Kenny and his associate, Stretch, growing cannabis and sexually abusing an overdosing girl to make pornographic films. Harry kills the dealers before burning down their den, fleeing with the girl and a bag of firearms in a stolen Land Rover. He leaves the girl outside a hospital, and later follows Marky to find him being sexually abused by Troy Martindale, a heroin smuggler that supplies drugs to the gang. Harry shoots and kills Martindale and captures Marky, whom he tortures into revealing some mobile phone camera footage of Len's murder, proving the gang did not kill Len in self-defense. Harry then uses Marky to bait Noel and Carl into a gunfight in the underpass; Carl and Marky are killed, and Noel flees the underpass with Harry in pursuit, only for Harry to collapse from an emphysema attack. Harry is found and taken to hospital.
Frampton has deduced that Harry is behind all the recent shootings, but her boss — Superintendent Childs — is instead convinced that they are all part of an escalating gang war; he thus orders a major arrest operation on the estate, which results in a riot. Harry discharges himself from the hospital to pursue Noel. Driving onto the estate to stop him, Frampton and Hicock are involved in a car crash in which Hicock is severely injured. Harry rescues them and takes them to Sid's pub, where Frampton warns Harry that Sid is actually Noel's uncle. Harry discovers that Sid has been hiding Noel, but his guard drops due to his emphysema, allowing Sid to disarm him and reveal himself to be the gang's real leader. Frampton tries to call for backup, but is stopped by Noel, who begins to strangle her after Sid suffocates Hicock to death. Though weakened, Harry draws a concealed revolver and kills Noel; Sid prepares to kill Harry in retaliation, only to be shot dead by police snipers, who have responded to Frampton's call.
At a press conference held after the riot, Superintendent Childs announces that Frampton and the late Hicock are to be awarded posthumously, but denies any evidence of vigilante involvement in the case. The film ends with Harry — seemingly recovered — walking towards the underpass, which is now quiet and gang-free.
- Michael Caine as Harold "Harry" Brown
- Emily Mortimer as Detective Inspector Alice Frampton
- Charlie Creed Miles as Detective Sergeant Terence "Terry" Hicock
- David Bradley as Leonard "Len" Attwell
- Ben Drew as Noel Winters
- Sean Harris as Stretch
- Jack O'Connell as Marky
- Jamie Downey as Carl
- Lee Oakes as Dean Saunders
- Joseph Gilgun as Kenneth "Kenny" Soames
- Liam Cunningham as Sidney "Sid" Rourke
- Iain Glen as Superintendent Childs
- Klariza Clayton as Sharon "Shaz" Thompson
- Liz Daniels as Katherine "Kath" Brown
- Orla O'Rourke as Nurse # 2
Harry Brown was met with mixed to positive reviews. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes reports that 64% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 113 reviews, with an average score of 6.1/10, critical consensus being, "Its lurid violence may put off some viewers, but Harry Brown is a vigilante thriller that carries an emotional as well as a physical punch, thanks to a gripping performance from Michael Caine in the title role." Empire gave the film four stars out of five, while GQ magazine gave it five stars out of five, calling it "truly awesome". The News of the World gave the film four out of five, The Daily Mail said "finally a film that really matters...Brilliant", and Shortlist called it "the best British film of the year".
The Times gave the film three stars but considered it "morally and politically repugnant". The Sunday Times was less positive, giving it one star: "It’s too daft to pass muster as action-movie hokum, let alone as social commentary." Cinema Blend praised the film, saying "Caine pours every ounce of himself into Harry, and the payoff is massive... There’s nothing more fulfilling than seeing a compelling story brought to life by standout performances and then further enhanced by stellar directing." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three stars out of four, and called the film "...a revenge thriller poised somewhere between Death Wish and Gran Torino." As of 20 December 2009 the film had earned $6,649,562 domestically, opening against 2012 and Disney's A Christmas Carol. As of 8 August 2010, total worldwide gross was nearly $10 million including $1,818,681 in the United States, where it opened against A Nightmare on Elm Street.
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- Surtees, Joshua (2010-03-26). "Gallery: The last days of Elephant and Castle's 1970s housing project". the Guardian. Retrieved 2016-09-15.
- "Heygate Estate demolition enters final stage". BBC News. 2014-02-13. Retrieved 2016-09-15.
- "South London's Heygate estate mourned by locals – and Hollywood", The Guardian, 3 September 2010
- "Rotten Tomatoes". Retrieved 2010-09-05.
- "Harry Brown Film Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2010-05-28.
- "Harry Brown Review". CinemaBlend.com. Retrieved 2012-08-01.
- Roger Ebert (28 April 2010). "Harry Brown (review)". Chicago Sun Times.