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Almost Hilariously Bad
Let's get to the point, Harry Brown is a terrible movie. It reeks of a lack of effort on everyone's behalf. The writing is half-arsed, the acting is half-arsed and the direction is half-arsed. It almost veers into amusingly bad, but it isn't quite risible due to it's horrible characters. The titular Harry Brown is a sadistic bastard. We're supposed to relate to him because his family and friends are dead and he's on his own, but how can we relate to a man that kills with every breath and tortures a child molester's victim? We're supposed to believe that this is a Ripped From The Headlines sort of movie, but it is far from it. Every single one of the "yoof" characters are despicable, happily murdering people, taking drugs, attempting rape, selling under-age prostitutes... they're completely flat. We have no idea behind their motivation. Harry claims they have none, saying they're worse than the IRA but that doesn't ring true at all. If it weren't for the fact Michael Caine is in it, nobody would have seen this film. It's clear he's only there for the paycheck, putting next to no effort into his part. Although, to be fair, there's nothing in there for him to work with. It's only 90 minutes long, excluding 9 minutes of credits, but it feels like 4 hours. If you read the Daily Mail for a year, then condensed the more bile-filled stories down to a screen play, this is what you'd get. We are led to believe that you should trust no one under 70, the police are evil and don't care about old people because they're old and that every youth in Britain should be shot because that will fix the country. They even threw in a paedophile for 20 seconds just to make it feel "real and edgy". It's poorly written shite, and it probably doesn't deserve being reviewed, but I suffered through it, I don't want anyone else to.
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Not Too Bad
Contrary to the reviewer before me who called this "almost hilariously bad", I would like to say that this is not a bad movie. But it doesn't follow a lot of movie conventions, which is where I think a lot of people will dislike this. It is a very interesting movie and I would cautiously say a good movie, but I would not recommend it for the majority. This movie is only for you if you enjoy arthouse films whose purpose is not the plot but commentary on social dis-inhibition and human behavior.

The entire movie works on exploring the situation at hand. Where awful things happen, people are shades of grey, and when the authorities do take charge it doesn't necessarily make things better. The depiction of what happens in housing estates and low-economic areas is realistic, but exaggerated. It shows how kids who grow up in these areas, who are living on the unemployment line, who don't want to have a job because their options are so limited and shitty, strike out with violence and posturing in gangs, depending on drugs while they spend most of their time idle. They stop caring about the consequences of what they do and find refuge in other kids who similarly want to rebel. It shows the vicious cycle of how kids coming from the background of relatives who are criminals learn from them, going out to commit crimes themselves, laid on a background of abuse and neglect. It shows how the police lose in the battle to keep control, and how excessive force doesn't necessarily achieve anything except reinforcing violence. Despite the ending of the film, where the streets are peaceful, you are reminded that this comes at a cost, and that those kids taken to jail in the riot will be back on the streets eventually, but now will be hardened criminals after their time in jail, just like their relatives.

The purpose of the subtle characterization is to show how everyone is flawed, just trying to do what they think is right, none of them finding a solution that works. If the film has any one point it is that the system itself doesn't work, and people's lives are ruined because of it. Unemployment and poor social services breed angry kids who lash out, poor police methods are either not effective enough or incite rebellion, and the silent majority are left as witnesses who just try to get on with their lives when the smoke clears.
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