Michael Caine has never evolved as an actor — he hasn't needed to. From the very beginning, he's always been on top of his game. In the new thriller "Harry Brown," Caine delivers one of the finest performances of his career.
In the title role, he plays a 76-year-old ex-Marine devastated by the loss of his beloved wife. Shortly after, his best friend is murdered by a gang of drug dealers who inhabit the "projects" (the Brits so politely call them “estates") in which he resides. The somber widower, mad as hell, morphs into a pistol-packing pensioner bent on revenge.
As he guns down the perps, Harry proves he possesses a proficiency for systematically exacting justice. In one particularly gruesome scene, he matches wits with a drug lord who is absolutely, hands down, the sleaziest scumbag I've ever seen on screen. I couldn't help thinking about the characters who showed up for that casting call.
"Harry Brown" is an unnerving, uber-violent piece of filmmaking. Yet it never stoops to gratuitous. Even Caine (who grew up in those very same tenements) admits, "If you treat people like animals, they will probably become animals ... these places are disgusting and completely unlivable."
In his first feature film, director Daniel Barber has masterfully depicted these horrifying conditions and the despicable human beings that they foster. He also wisely employs lots of extreme close-ups of Sir Michael, which capture the genius behind his immense talent. It's so evident in these moments that one cannot help but being completely and utterly moved.
In the tradition of the best vigilante films, such as "Death Wish" and "Gran Torino," "Harry Brown" lives up to and elevates the genre. There's just something so exhilarating about old guys who can kick butt, especially when one of them is the great Michael Caine.
— Pam Nadon