Jun 2, 2011
Harry Brown has been criticized by left wing film reviewers for being a mindlessly violent, morally bankrupt, bigoted and unrepresentative piece of fascist propaganda. Harry Brown exceeds all those expectations! This is a film that accurately depicts modern Britain and can only be properly described as fucking awesome. It is made of the purest form of win. This home grown British film starring Michael Caine is about an elderly retired marine living in a sinkhole estate full of chav scum. Simple plot; his friend is murdered he cleanses his local community. Superficially it’s a rehashed Dirty Harry justice narrative, but it is just so much more than that, it is a film that really matters.
Let me explain; This film has been widely compared to the American ‘equivalent’ Gran Torino but it couldn’t be more different. Gran Torino has a similar opening premise; bitter angry war vet (Clint Eastwood, who is also director) surrounded by immigrants, social decay, family breakdown, gangs, crime, etc., and you think that’s just great, but no, it’s a trap! Suddenly it becomes a feel good family comedy where our hero learns to embrace and nurture his new multicultural society learning the value of community relations, and that’s how he wins. Sounds pretty gay right?
Harry Brown is totally different, thank god the Americans didn’t get their hands all over it and ruin the thing! The Hollywood orthodoxy approaches representation in film by showing both sides of an argument, example - Terrorism; we would see a terrorist kill people and commit atrocities, but we would also see equal if not more screen time given to his family life, poor country, American foreign policy, and other forms of self criticism, you would also see moderate Muslims argue with the terrorist explaining how he is not the real Islam, blah blah world peace American imperialism blah. We have all seen these films.
Because these films are ‘subversive’ they always ride against popular fears/perceptions/and opinions, and therefore not only produce a film that is totally out of proportion with reality (by virtue of the fact you are portraying a liberally balanced debate rather than amalgamated perceptions of the audience), but actively attacks the social norms of the viewer and makes them progressive and self critical. It is on the basis of this orthodoxy that Harry Brown is so derided by liberal critics and sociology fags because of its supposedly unrepresentative in its demonic portrayal of the social underclass. That is the point.
Harry Brown offers a refreshing form of social criticism as in that it is appeals directly towards your hate. In that sense I think it says something interesting about what public perceptions really are, as opposed to what they are widely understood to be – Hope perhaps? In my opinion people are sick of this unhealthy obsession in our culture which automatically defends the criminal over the victim. That is where all of the sociological analysis goes into; “it would appear the perpetrator carried out his actions because society did not embrace him, it was the capitalist system and sexual identity oppression, etc”. One thing this film managed to do was connect to the sense of hopelessness and abandonment felt by ordinary people. It is no coincidence the hero is an ex-army veteran yet frail pensioner, in many ways he is representative of that old Britain we identify with.
This film is for anyone who has ever lived in a pikey town, or a council estate, or an inner city, (or at a stab, even having attended one of our public schools) because they are likely to have the fear. The Charvers in this film are so realistic they are genuinely frightening. The fact that they are over the top (or as liberals would say ... Racist?) captures this emotion. In this context they effectively lose their ‘human rights’ for the duration of the film while justice is visited upon them. Generally speaking everyone hates chavs, everyone hates the underclass, that is why this film was made. Underneath all the tolerance, and hug-a-rainbow bullshit people still don’t buy into it, not even liberals which is why they lock themselves away in their safe little suburbs.
There is a sort of irony in that Harry Brown is more ‘Dirty Harry’ than Dirty Harry ever was, this is far more subversive because it is genuinely anti-system. The point of this type of vigilante narrative is that the vigilante exists because the existing forms of authority have failed and something needs to fill the void (which is politically speaking the central premise of fascism). In the previous films this message was always a mistake; Michael Winner – who directed Death Wish – went on to advocate the banning of the Lord Horror Novel and become an all around general prick, while Clint Eastwood who is associated most with the genre made Gran Torino (I don’t hold this against him, he had to make his peace, but that makes him part of the system).
There is a great irony in that the very message of Gran Torino that is parodied in the impotent law enforcement via the satirical monologues from a police chief who is simply a career politician managing the decent of society as opposed to any force for law and order. The language it uses is very new labour, though it also has echoes of David Cameron’s ‘hug a hoodie’ campaign (I bet you forgot that, I didn’t). At a press conference at the end of the film he speaks of ‘victory in the long term strategy of community relations, silent majority, harmony, breaking the wall of silence’ ect. All this when the bulk of the police force went down to a huge defeat in the estate when hordes of feral youths descended upon them with projectiles chasing them out of the estate. But isn’t it also true that our police do not control our towns and cities? That they can’t enter certain areas? That the role of the police is reduced to firemen; to be political, not intervene, and be there to clear up afterwards.
“This isn’t Northern Ireland Harry”
“No it's not. Those people were fighting for something; for a cause. To them out there, this is just entertainment.”
Anyway, not to ruin the film but while this monologue plays the film ends with our hero looking up at a clear blue sky and symbolically walking into the underpass with a sense of security, not so subtlety letting you make up your own mind about which is the more effective method of crime control. It would be wishful thinking to hope that films like this might inspire some old codgers to dust off their service revolvers and start dropping social scum, that’s not the point though. This film does not so much glorify vigilantism, but presents a desperate viewpoint on the social situation; that there are many people in this society who are irredeemably evil (for lack of a better word) and are always going to be social parasites. It is a propaganda film in this sense. While there remains unanswered questions as to how we specifically deal with the problems we face, the realistic solution that will enter people’s minds is going to be something along the lines of organized armed authority: the Police, the Army, Paramilitary forces to just clear through these areas. It must be done, and the people will support it.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 2:26 AM
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