Michael Caine has a way of talking where he breaks up his sentences into precise pieces. Caine is guaranteed to bring the good stuff to any film in which he appears, and for the most part Harry Brown would be a good film no matter who starred. But with Caine at the lead this vigilante drama set in a run down British neighborhood the movie vaults to Death Wish or Gran Torino territory. Not to say that those films are classics of cinema. However they are concise examples of genre filmmaking.

Caine as Harry Brown watches in dismay, as fellow elderly friends are mugged or worse in their declining community. As a young man Brown was in the Marines but as an old man he seems to be counting off the days until he dies. The killing of his best friend in a useless binge of gang violence puts Brown back in touch with his inner values. Before long he’s confronted a hooligan trying to rob him at night. The result being a dead punk, killed with the knife he wielded against Brown.

An icy and taciturn detective (Emily Mortimer) investigates the incident and returns throughout the film to act as a foil to Brown, whom she rightly suspects of somehow being involved. But at this point there’s plenty of street vermin to be, well, exterminated and Brown’s got the juice. And, oddly enough, a cache of guns he conceals after grabbing them at the first drug warehouse he burns to the ground. In England people don’t have handguns, per se, so the sight of an old bloke brandishing an array of revolvers against the evils of society speaks volumes.

Fight scenes, gun battles and car crashes are staged in a mostly realistic manner. Harry Brown sticks to its genre template even while offering a few scenes you don’t see coming.

— Michael Bergeron