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Film / Harry Brown

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Michael Caine stars as Harry Brown, a widowed pensioner and ex-Royal Marine who lives on a council estate terrorised by feral teens. After an old friend confronts a bunch of them and is killed, he decides that enough is enough and is off to go chav-hunting. In essence, he's the British version of Paul Kersey.

The cast is noted for being very diverse, ranging from professional actors to actual and former gangsters, prostitutes and drug dealers. There is also an aspiring lawyer who also acts. Michael Caine himself lived not far from where the movie was shot and chose to do the project to raise awareness about English sink estates note  and the lifestyle lived in them.

An interview between Michael Caine and Jon Stewart can be found here.


Tropes associated with the film:

  • Asshole Victim: "You should have called an ambulance, for the girl!"
  • Anti-Villain: Invoked by one of the chavs during an interrogation.
  • Ax-Crazy:
    • Noel Winters is a bloodthirsty, sadistic lunatic who rapes and kills for his own sick amusement. His uncle is just as much of a psychopath as his nephew is.
    • Sean Harris's menacing, tattooed drug dealer, Stretch, pulls a gun on Harry for suggesting they take his overdosing girlfriend to the hospital.
  • Ballistic Discount: Attempted by Harry and averted by the gun dealer who doesn't want him touching the guns until he's paid for them. Then Harry draws the dealer's attention to the home made porno playing on the TV and proceeds to play the trope straight.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Harry is a kind old fellow who keeps to himself and spends his days playing chess with his friend Leonard. He's also a retired member of the Royal Marines Commandos, and is implied to have done some serious things in Northern Ireland. When Leonard is murdered by a group of chavs, he goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge by putting his Marine training to use, utterly devastating the amateur criminals who did it.
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  • Big Damn Heroes: Harry saves Detective Frampton from being strangled to death by shooting Noel Winters. Shortly after, he is saved from being killed by Sid with the timely intervention of a pair of CO-19 officers.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Noel, Sid and many other violent criminals are killed, but Sgt Hicock was also killed in the line of duty, and Detective Frampton is probably going to suffer from psychological trauma after she was almost murdered by Noel. But the estate appears to be a much safer place to live now, and Harry finally walks through the subway he was afraid to use earlier.
  • Blatant Lies: When Harry is dealing with one of the thugs for a gun, he claims he wants to use it to "shoot the pigeons from his roof". While it makes the thug no less willing to go ahead with the deal, it's implied that he doesn't believe Harry for a second.
    Thug: What do you want a gun for, brother?
    Harry: I want to shoot the pigeons... off my roof.
    Thug (smiling sardonically): Yeah... of course you do.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Happens four times:
    • An innocent woman is shot through the head by two chavs on a motorcycle in the opening sequence.
    • Kenny is stabbed through the arm and then has his brains blown out by Harry, who is currently making use of a Ballistic Discount. The bullet goes straight through his skull and destroys the TV behind him.
    • Troy Martindale is shot in the head by Harry from outside his car, in an effort to capture Marky, whom Troy was sexually abusing at the time.
    • Marky is accidentally killed by Carl after Harry shoots him and causes him to fire his gun off, hitting Marky in the head.
  • Cassandra Truth: Frampton informs the superintendent that Harry is the best suspect for some of the murders. Additionally, earlier in the film, Len flat-out tells Harry that Sid is not the man Harry thinks he is.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • In the film's climax: Frampton's radio, which she briefly uses to try and call for help before Noel attacks her. The camera focuses on it again when a pair of laser gun sight points appear on Sid's chest.
    • In the same scene, the trope is also averted: When Frampton and Noel are struggling, Noel drops his gun next to Frampton. She never attempts to pick up the gun, although in her defense, she had recently suffered two blows to the head and was being strangled by Noel.
    • And of course, let's not forget The .38 snubnose. The first gun that Harry asks about, and the last one he uses in the film, to kill Noel.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Kenny, one of the drug dealers who hangs around Sid's pub, is mentioned by Len to be involved in selling guns as well as drugs. Later, when Harry needs a gun to take on the armed criminals on the estate, he follows Kenny to his hideout to buy one. Or rather, make use of a Ballistic Discount.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Harry, being an elderly pensioner with health problems, knows he doesn't have a chance in hell taking on the much younger gangs of criminals in a straight fight, and so calls on his Royal Marine training to get the job done. Throughout the film, he employs minor misdirection, physical and psychological torture and guerilla tactics in order to lay waste to the skittish and drug-addled crooks he goes up against.
  • Cool Old Guy: Harry Brown of course. He's a retired Royal Marine and a very friendly elderly gentleman, who for the most part accepts the crime on the estate and lives with it. When he learns his best (and only) friend Leonard is murdered by a gang of chavs and that the police aren't doing anything about it, Harry finally decides he's had enough and takes matters into his own hands, killing the people that murdered Len and dismantling part of a large drug operation in the process.
  • *Crack!* "Oh, My Back!": Harry's often limited by his own aging body and a bad case of emphysema.
  • Darker and Edgier: Geriatric widower with a distinguished military record lives in a bad part of town that used to be a good part of town. When he's had enough of the local teenagers' shenanigans, he shows them what a tough guy really looks like. Sounds like Gran Torino right? No.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones:
    • Sid is condescending towards Noel and treats him like a lackey, but he was unwilling to give him up and let Harry kill him, despite it being potentially viable to do so, while backed into a corner during the finale, putting himself between Harry and Noel while stating, "He's my sister's boy. He's blood."
    • Noel, despite his sociopathic tendencies, held his other gang members in at least some regard, going by his initial refusal to stand down despite being ordered to by Sid during the climactic confrontation with Harry, angrily proclaiming, "Fuck that! This senile old cunt killed Marky and Carl!"
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Displayed by the chavs Harry encounters in the underpass while he sends one of their number towards them as bait with barbed wire around his neck. Of course, they are shooting Gangsta Style.
  • It Works Better with Bullets: When Harry puts his plan into action and attempts to make use of a Ballistic Discount on Kenny and Stretch, the latter holds Harry at gunpoint and mocks him before pulling the trigger. The gun fails to fire of course as it has no bullets and is filled with weed. Apparently, Stretch was so totally minced that he completely forgot he had fired off the last round in the gun and then smoked drugs out of the empty chamber just one minute earlier.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Harry interrogates Marky by whipping him and then threatening to blow his kneecaps out.
  • Juggling Loaded Guns: Stretch smokes out of his gun. Averted however in that the gun isn't actually loaded, as once he fires his only shot the slide locks back. He's so drugged up that he forgets this moments later when trying to kill Harry.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: The chavs on the motorbike in the prologue. Played literally in the climax with Sid, getting taken out by a pair of CO-19 officers with laser gun sights.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: when he decides he's had enough.
  • Lower-Class Lout: The villains are all textbook examples, albeit better armed than usual.
  • Morality Chain: Harry's comatose wife.
  • Mugging the Monster: Dean, one of the drug dealers, spots a drunken Harry flashing a wad of cash in the pub. Thinking him to be an easy mark, Dean attempts to rob the older man on his way home. Despite being over seventy and very drunk, Harry's Marine training kicks in and he turns the knife on Dean when he moves to attack him. Harry's reaction implies he may not have even realised he was doing it.
  • Not With the Safety On, You Won't: "You've failed to maintain your weapon, son."
  • Old Soldier: Harry Brown, an old man who despite not being an actual grandpa, (he has no living family to speak of) is undeniably very badass.
  • Pointy-Haired Boss: The superintendent comes off as a very unreasonable boss, barely considering Frampton's theories and in the end getting a medal for the mediocre Operation Blue Jay.
  • Police Are Useless: Played with. The police in this movie are far from inactive, but their effectiveness is questionable. Some cops are shown as more useless than others.
  • Pretty Little Headshots: Averted. Four times in the film does someone get shot in the head, with the result being very messy every time.
  • Revenge Thriller: Harry is the hero only because the people he's up against are far, far worse.
    • Trauma Conga Line: To be fair, he goes through a lot of shit and tries to let the authorities deal with it before taking matters into his own hands.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: Most of the thugs are ridiculously negligent with their firearms
  • The Reveal: The identity of the Big Bad, Sid. The spoiler being so short was a spoiler in itself, so I'm adding some text.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: After Len is murdered, Harry goes on a relatively slow and subdued one, as being an elderly man with a health condition, he poses little to no physical threat to the much younger crooks and instead has to resort to being a Combat Pragmatist, using his brain and the weapons at his disposal in order to get an advantage over his enemies.
  • Spiritual Antithesis: To Gran Torino. While that film's take on the plot of a Retired Badass played by an A-list older actor fighting street thugs was far more deconstructive (especially of its star and director's previous vigilante films), this film plays it straight and makes Harry an unambiguous hero whose violent tactics genuinely do solve the problems in his community.
  • Sword over Head: The gun dealer... On both sides.
  • The Stoic: Police Superintendent Childs. When the riot starts, the chavs are throwing bottles and rocks at the police armored up in riot gear. Childs casually observes the whole thing, with his helmet in his hand. As projectiles thrown by the chavs land all around him, he casually turns around and walks back to his car, not even bothering to don his helmet until the very end of the scene.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Once again, chavs.
  • Too Dumb to Live: One thug uses his pistol as a pipe, stuffing weed into the chamber so he can light it up and suck the fumes through the barrel. Inevitably, when Harry makes his move moments later, the pistol misfires.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Harry goes through one, and not just during the events of the movie, but one that has spanned most of his life (he lost a friend in Northern Ireland and then his daughter died when she was only 12.) During the film, Harry loses his wife, his best friend, and learns that a man he considered a friend is actually a psychotic criminal scumbag who's involved in drugs. The only silver lining is that he survives the entire ordeal, although acccording to Word of God, even that is up for interpretation.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Brown's first kill is of a young man who no doubt assumed he would be an easy mark because of his age and intoxication. All of his targets clearly deem him easy prey because of this, never knowing that they're dealing with a retired Marine who's fed-up with them terrorizing his neighborhood.
  • Villainous Friendship: When Sid orders Noel to lower his gun during the standoff with Harry, Noel initially refuses, exclaiming, "Fuck that! This senile old cunt killed Marky and Carl!"
  • Vigilante Man: A "vigilante pensioner" as Superintendent Childs puts it. Kinda rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?