“Harry Brown” lets Michael Caine show us his action-hero side one more time in a film that Charles Bronson would have been proud to call his own.
This British “Death Wish” is about a lonely pensioner (Caine) whose wife is in a home.
“I don’t think she knows I’m there anymore,” he tells his best friend, Leonard (David Bradley), one of the few peers his age still around.
Their apartment complex has gone downhill in the classic fashion – an older generation dying out, the address becoming less desirable, maintenance lagging as the wrong element moves in. Drugs and violence follow.
Leonard’s had enough. He’s ready to take action.
“Did you ever kill anyone?” he asks Harry.
“You can’t ask me that!” Harry spits back, in a bit of foreshadowing.
When tragedy strikes, Harry weighs his options, figures what he has and hasn’t got left to live for, and sets out to take care of business.
Director David Barber spares us few ugly details in showing us how an elderly man with a past might handle himself in these circumstances. But the Gary Young screenplay stumbles as he cooks up melodramatic coincidences and an over-the-top finale.
Caine, however, is magnificent. This is not some laughable Stallone-boxing-at-60 exercise in vanity. He’s an old man playing an old man, but one who lived through experiences that both scarred him for life and prepared him for his final test.
“Harry Brown” is Caine’s “The Shootist,” a chance for a film icon to do what he does best one more time, a victory lap for the screen’s definitive British tough guy.
“Harry Brown” is playing at the Magic Lantern Theatre.