We’re all about comics here at Panels on Pages, but a geek cannot live on comics alone. Outside the Longbox is our chance to spotlight something outside our typical four-color realm – be it movies, music, TV or whatever.
Harry Brown (2009)
Stars: Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, Liam Cunnigham
Script: Gary Young
Director: Daniel Barber
Over the years the focus in movies has always been on “young” people. Action heroes of the past are now over 50 or no longer alive, and the new generation to take their place is not as exciting. With one moving to politics and another looks like a caricature of himself due to multiple plastic surgeries, their movie careers are mostly done. One star that made a perfect transition over the past two decades is Clint Eastwood, moving from a Western/action hero to esteemed director of award winning films. Close to 80 (Eastwood will celebrate his birthday on May 31), Eastwood claimed he will no longer act on film, marking 2008′s Gran Torino as his last role (also directed by him). The film told the story of an old widow, now retired, who gets involved with a Vietnamese family and gang members that take over his neighborhood.
A year later, Britain had an even better version of this kind of story with Harry Brown: A Royal Marine veteran (Caine) only recently lost his sick wife. As violent teens take over the corners of his neighborhood, his best friend Len (David Bradley) decides one night to retaliate against the young people that harass him daily, and ends up beaten and stabbed to death. With the police investigating – led by Detective Inspector Frampton (Mortimer) and Detective Sergeant Hicock (Charlie Creed-Miles) – the case and targeting a certain group of criminals led by a young man (Ben “Plan B” Drew). When the investigation leads to no end and Frampton is swayed away from the case by her commanding officer, Harry accidentally kills one junkie that tries to rob him and was involved in the murder of Len, unknown to him. This incident awakens something that he hid inside for many decades (to the request of his wife) and now that his old skills kick back, Harry begins a quest of vendetta against the young thugs in order to save his neighborhood.
One aspect of the film that should be noted is the use of raw cellphone videos. It plays a small but important part during the film, but most of all its greatest use is as the opening scene: After the initiation a young gang member, three guys are riding a motorcycle – apparently drunk and high – and film themselves with a phone. They start shooting (it all occurs in mid-day) around and harass a young mother with a baby that walks around a park. They shoot again and the mother is hit in the head, apparently dying immediately. The kids escape from the scene and then get hit by a truck, also dying. This scene sets the tone of the film quite perfectly.
Unlike Eastwood’s film, Harry Brown offers no agenda that’s on the verge of racism. It says: “Look at modern UK and the young assholes that destroy it.” You don’t have to live in the UK to realize that your surrounding is also in danger of destruction by undisciplined and vicious teenagers/young people. It’s not like crime or violence are new to our world, but it seems like every few years the rates of murder and rape only go up with no signs of ever disappearing. I only finished high school 10 years ago and it feels like ages; I now feel closer to Harry Brown and Walt Kowalski than to teens 10-15 years younger than me, so it’s no wonder I’m fine with the violent and bloody road both characters take, something I can’t ever imagine myself doing. Admittedly, nowadays we need someone like Frank Castle and not Peter Parker. To quote James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich: Sad but true.
Interestingly enough, two weeks ago a five-part Israeli miniseries called Nevelot (“scumbags”) aired. It revolves around the lives of two old friends who in their youth (the mid-late 1940s) were members of the Jewish underground strike force against British Mandate, the Palmach. A car accident brings up memories of the past and their frustrations of the way society developed in the last seven decades. As a result, they go on a violent journey, wiping young thugs and jerks that come in their way. Sounds very simple, but as of two episodes it stands on the same level of complexity and quality as Harry Brown
Harry Brown is highly recommended with 4.5 out of 5 burnt apartments used as secret lairs.
Tomer Soiker shot the sheriff, his deputy and their dog. They were all corrupted, especially the mutt.