Michael Caine plays the title character, a vet pensioner wallowing in the wrong part of South London. After a fellow geriatric (David Bradley) is offed, the murderers go unpunished, thanks to movie loopholes. Incensed, Brown prowls for justice.
After plugging a drug-and-arms dealer, Brown warmly regales him with a tale from his Royal Marine days. It is one of the few times when Harry Brown approaches moral complexity.
Usually it’s fine giving off the illusion of complexity. Make no mistake: This is just another endorsement of civilians taking the law into their own hands. But star and director team up to class up Gary Young’s script. Caine makes like an elderly version of his Get Carter mobster. If the role were as well-written as it was acted this would be your typical autumnal Oscar turn. Filmmaker Daniel Barber, meanwhile, slows the film down, drawing out moments to the point of pseudo-profundity and making effective use of empty spaces.
Both Caine and Barber (plus Emily Mortimer, as a more skeptical version of the token sympathetic-to-the-avenging-angel detective) treat the material as though it were bottomlessly profound. It takes till the head-slappingly boneheaded climax to officially confirm Harry Brown as less than deep. But hey, guys, not even Jodie Foster and Neil Jordan could make this vigilante bullshit work.
We’re denied the nature-doc staples: no music, no soothing narration by Morgan Freeman and, best yet, no anthropomorphizing.
Good Heart has a problem with redemption symbolism, and tries to float along on the absurdly grimy look and the misanthropy of its protagonist, which is mostly milked.
Sadly, the second installment feels like four films crammed into one.