An octogenarian will rise… slowly. That could have been the tagline for “Harry Brown,” a movie that features Michael Caine dispensing justice on a bunch of street-punks in a south U.K. estate. Caine plays the title character, a widower and ex-marine living in a filthy London housing project surrounded by teens selling drugs and committing acts of senseless violence.
When Harry’s friend becomes a casualty of one of these street punks and the police prove powerless in catching those responsible for it, Harry decides to let loose his former, darker past in order to find justice. His exploits attract the attention of Detective Frampton (Emily Mortimer), who believes Harry may have turned vigilante.
This all amounts to your average, by-the-numbers revenge flick. The action doesn’t really kick in until the second half and even then it’s all blood splatter and very little suspense (although there is one scene where Harry tries to buy a gun from a drug dealer that crackles with tension). Watching the rest is like watching one hundred other vigilante movies.
All stale ideas, no original thoughts. The street-punks are your usual crude criminals, the justice system is almost entirely inept, and after all the violence is said and done, it tries to show depth by condemning the violence. Director Daniel Barber gives it a depressingly dreary look that works in its favor but even that feels borrowed from other movies. The only thing “Brown” really has going for it is Michael Caine, who gives a quiet, understated performance that brings us into loving the old guy and sympathizing with his loneliness, but that also hides a wicked determination.