THE synopsis of this new gritty British thriller reads a little like a London-based Gran Torino, complete with Michael Caine taking the Clint Eastwood role of being the older, disgruntled guy annoyed at society and seeking revenge. With a poster littered

Harry Brown (Cert 18) - the below trailer is only suitbale for persons aged 18 and over.


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THE synopsis of this new gritty British thriller reads a little like a London-based Gran Torino, complete with Michael Caine taking the Clint Eastwood role of being the older, disgruntled guy annoyed at society and seeking revenge.

With a poster littered with stars and promises of realism, this is sure to be bottom of the Labour Party's list on the worldwide portrayals of our capital on the eve of an election.

I have been a big fan of the two directors whose aim has been to portray our fair nation in as honest way as possible. Guy Ritchie's late 90s classics show the cool Eastenders-like London life. Mucky language and very British plots made everything in the city look so exciting and good-hearted.

Shane Meadows has also tried to be the auteur of realistic UK life. This Is England is his most well-known film, portraying the scary 80s rise of the National Front. Little exaggeration here, but plenty of retro warmth in each of his films - the child protagonists in the two films I've seen from him all a plot device to put innocent thoughts and memories in the adults watching, so to put stark, crisp and striking shocks later on.

I look forward most of all to see how the director Daniel Barber (this is his first major release) decides to go. The film's set in the London region of Elephant & Castle (just south of the river, near London Bridge).

It'll also be interesting seeing Michael Caine potentially playing a role this decade this isn't basically a characterture of himself or small, two-dimensional roles in big budget Hollywood films. Respect will always be high of course, classics like Italian Job, Zulu and The Ipcress File are timeless and he basically made them the classics they are.

So with some critical praise already out there, and with cinemas beginning to trickle with the Oscar contenders (the new Coen Brothers film just released and Peter Jackson's latest pushed forward to be in with a chance of a Best Picture nod), the real question is whether this is good enough to see you part with your hard earned cash.

Thoughts Afterwards

IT'S with weary fingers I type the next paragraph, quietly afraid of the jinx it may cast down upon me.

I've been very lucky in my time in London, where I have gone into some of the (apparently) dodgy areas of the city and come out fine. Never had a real problem so far; apart from a slightly alarming with some giddy youths throwing snowballs at me last Christmas.

So as I sat and watched Harry Brown I counted my blessings - lucky to not encounter what can happen in some areas in the very place I sit now.

As briefly stated, the film follows one Harry Brown who seeks revenge for his murdered friend Lenny, brutally assaulted and stabbed near his home. His biggest lead is recent proclamations from Lenny that local youths had been threatening him and putting stuff through his letterbox.

With that in mind he seeks more information and readies himself for a battle against some of the most dangerous thugs in his neighbourhood.

Michael Caine is pretty good in the lead role, battling slightly to again not just play himself but it's that attempt at a withdrawn performance that mellows the character out to a believable old man with an agenda. I didn't quite feel empathy for him though, perhaps down to a lack of character development at the beginning, but I was rooting for him throughout.

The rest of the cast, aside from the bad folk in the gangs, are standard fare - not bad at all but the police subplot felt a little like an ITV drama, acting and script-wise anyway. The interviews at the police station felt like they were ripped straight from A Touch of Frost (just with more swearing).

This is a problem sometimes with movies and television shows with such strong central characters. Television shows like Dexter and 24 are often a little dry and boring when their forerunners are on the screen, and within seconds you're waiting doggedly for their return. This was Michael Caine's film and any time he's away from the screen I got a little impatient.

There were some possibly remarkable performances though, namely from relative newcomer Ben Drew. His acting was completely believable and he had a presence on screen that matched even Caine.

One aspect I was surprised by was, oddly, the really good musical score throughout. I think without it's prodding of the tenser moments then it'd lessen the impact of much of the film. It fit seamlessly into the action on screen though, never out of place, which I guess is the definition of a perfect soundtrack.

Moments of Harry Brown have the raw intensity of horror movies though, namely when the audience is drawn into the murky underworld of the drug-takers who supply the common guy with weapons. It as all eerily real-looking, with cannabis plants lined up everywhere.

It's a shame though that Harry Brown neither has the charm of Shane Meadow films or the humour and style of Guy Ritchie movies. I don't think it would work with either one, of course, so maybe this is a positive - I just felt a little like it's lack of anything to stand-it-out from the crowd, in terms of script or look on screen (where the direction was 'good' but all pretty standard fare), just felt no more than a feature length television movie that 'happened' to have a movie star as it's lead.

Don't get me wrong, please, because this is a pretty good movie - just not particularly great or special to warrant a dedicated visit to the cinema for.

It's a rather brave and honest look at how some of our country's boroughs are now-a-days, scary as these sights are, and I commend all involved for carving a watchable film out of these negatives.

The main character too is strong and I even commented at the end that this could be a cracking new trilogy - the silent hunter of London, protecting the public from the yobs that terrorise the streets. Caine plays Batman's butler Alfred in recent films but he's got a character here that could be an everyday superhero - the chav vigilante. That has a ring to it in fact.

TIM LINCE

3/5 STARS