'Harry Brown' avoids typical action movie clich Sept. 6, 2010
By G. Michael Dobbs
A surprising comedy and a film I knew would be good are featured in this week's DVD review column.
Michael Caine might suffer from over exposure -- and the lack of respect that comes from that -- as for years he ha been a very busy actor appearing in many films, some of which have been beneath his talent.
He has explained in interviews that acting is his job and his old school work ethic requires him to seek employment.
Caine needs no explanation or apology for "Harry Brown," though. Although some people might view it as "Death Wish" for 2010, it really is a different film in tone.
Caine plays Brown, a recent widower living in a public housing development in London. The residents must deal with the crime, violence and intimidation brought on by a large gang of young people. The police seem overwhelmed by the prospect of trying to deal with this gang.
When his friend asked if he had ever killed a man when he was a member of the Royal Marines, Brown tactfully declines answering, saying he repressed those memories and experiences when he married. When the gang murders this friend, Brown quietly but profoundly changes.
The police may be sympathetic, but they can do only so much and their investigation is stalled. Brown figures out where to buy a gun and starts a campaign against the gang.
The film is shocking at times, but it is neither an action film in a pure sense nor is it an exploitation film -- into which both categories the Charles Bronson "Death Wish" films fall.
"Harry Brown" is a character study of one man turning to calculated violence as his only reaction to the events unfolding around him.
Caine understands that less is more and gives a controlled performance. His moments of raw emotions are more profound because of the quiet he has created around him.
I really liked this film because of its honesty and its refusal to fall into some sort of action film clich . I think many adults will like it as well.
Made for Each Other
Recently I reviewed one pretty dumb sex/romantic comedy and I didn't have much faith when I put this film into my machine. I'm happy to report, however, it is genuinely funny, unapologetically raunchy and sometimes completely random, with little non-sequitor details that make you sit up and say, "What was that?"
Christopher Masterson (the eldest brother on "Malcolm in the Middle") stars as Dan, a guy married to Marcy (Bijou Phillips) the woman he loves. He works for a toy company in his small hometown owned by his father-in-law. There is only one problem: his marriage has yet to be consummated after three months.
When his tyrannical sister-in-law -- and boss -- puts the moves on him, he is horrified and guilty. His friends suggest the only way to feel better and be able to talk to his wife about the infidelity is to put her in a position to commit adultery as well.
Enter Mack Mackenzie, an actor appearing in the town's playhouse as the star of a musical version of the movie, "Water World." Played by Patrick Warburton, Mackenzie takes up the challenge of seducing Marcy as an acting assignment.
The script has elements that certainly would have proved leaden in the hands of other writers and directors, but the sweet but off-center approach makes the film funny and the characters more than mere cartoons.
And any movie that presents the idea of the Kevin Costner bomb, "Water World," a stage musical is okay in my book.
The film is rated R for a reason and is not one to share with the kids. Extras include a funny set of out-takes with actor Samm Levine as well as a making-of feature.