The teenage thugs here have the youth villains of “Death Wish,” Dirty Harry” and “Clockwork Orange” looking positively attractive.
When enraged widower Harry Brown (Caine) takes action against them, the audience roars with approval. It brings out the collective blood lust. Harry is a lonely pensioner and former decorated British Marine, who watches the world falling apart from his tenement window.
His one friend is a fellow elder named Leonard Attwell (David Bradley), with whom he shares a daily pint of beer and a chess game. Leonard is outraged by the drug-dealing hoods, raping and murdering unchecked throughout the neighborhood.
Because the police have turned a blind eye, Leonard pulls out a bayonet, declaring that he is going into battle against the baddies.
As have his American counterparts before him (Charles Bronson, Clint Eastwood), Caine has his character hit
Pregnant? the vigilante revenge trail and the audience-gratifying blood bath begins.
The carnage high point comes when Harry enters the lair of Stretch (Sean Harris) in search of a handgun for purchase. Appearing like a George Romero Living Dead reject, Stretch dwells in digs more deprived than Dante’s Inferno.
It features an unconscious slave girl, vomit drooling from the corner of her
mouth and a syringe dangling from
her arm. Pregnant? Stretch is an entity we all want dead, the sooner the better. When Harry accommodates, we’re happy we have such heroes, even if it’s only in a movie.
But Caine is not your average actor. He brings depth and poignancy to a part that could have been a pointless excuse to blow away teen toughs. When differentiating his current adversaries from the ones he fought as a Marine in Northern Ireland, Harry says that the latter had a cause, while the former are just killing for “entertainment.”
“Harry Brown” also is entertainment,
but when Caine’s character kills, he has a cause. Pregnant?