Harry Brown is an unremittingly violent film. Utterly devoid of sympathetic characters, it offers a terrifying glimpse into the fear, violence and sadism on an unnamed council estate.
Every scene is wired with tension – nervous tension which often culminates in bloody violence.
This is not a thought provoking film. It does not “raise serious issues”. It simply exists to give vent to the violent feelings we all sometimes have.
In this film, women are almost entirely absent – even as set dressing. Much like Reservoir Dogs, they exist as background characters – there to be the object of violence. Emily Mortimer plays the role of A Furrowed Brow. This talented actress is reduced to portraying a brittle willow-branch of a character. I say “character” but like all the roles, it is merely a paper thin covering with character development achieved through poorly delivered exposition.
As an exercise in dark cinematic tension, this is a master-class. But unlike the aforementioned Reservoir Dogs, there’s no flair. No cutting one-liners, no memorable characters, no rousing music or cinematic style.
This is ultraviolence-by-proxy. Rather than go out and get into a fight – stay in and watch the blood drip from caricatures of every little thug you’ve ever wanted to throttle.
Hobbes’ Leviathan has it right;
Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of Warre, where every man is Enemy to every man; the same is consequent to the time, wherein men live without other security, than what their own strength, and their own invention shall furnish them withall. In such condition, there is no place for Industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain; and consequently no Culture of the Earth; no Navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by Sea; no commodious Building; no Instruments of moving, and removing such things as require much force; no Knowledge of the face of the Earth; no account of Time; no Arts; no Letters; no Society; and which is worst of all, continuall feare, and danger of violent death; And the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short.
I’m not ashamed to say that this film rattled me. There’s no doubt that as an exercise in building tension it works magnificently. As an evening’s entertainment; it’s for those who want to relieve their frustration with the world by watching torture porn.