Saturday, August 25, 2012

You're a Good Man, Harry Brown... you blockhead!

Always a good time for a Peanuts reference, because it's time for another Death Wish reference.  This time, the locale is the slums of somewhere in England, where Michael Caine and a token best friend decry the decline of the neighborhood as they might have once known it.  Young drug-dealing, drug-taking punks are blocking a tunnel that Harry Brown would like to walk through someday.  They're real nasty pieces of work, and they make the Adam Sandler O'Doyles look like amateurs in comparison.  They taunt the cops as much as they taunt the protagonists.
Harry Brown parts company with Death Wish in several ways, beside the change of locale.  First of all, Harry's immediate family isn't attacked, and no young woman's naked posterior gets spraypainted.  The focus groups kept that out, thank goodness.  Second, it's in Harry's past, much like Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino.  Paul Kersey was an architect.  An architect, for God's sake!!!  For Harry, there's lots of hemming and hawing about returning to the life bloodthirsty, as today's modern celluloid hero is required to go through.  But once Harry gets started, there's no stopping him.  He's a justice machine and he will not work for nobody but us.
First stop: to procure some weapons.  The setting's grisly and real enough, and I hope the two baddies weren't professional actors, but I guess you do what you gotta do these days.  Still, it's nice to know that some of the old school ways are still effective: Harry points at a TV screen and gets the bad guy to turn his head before he makes his move.  My viewing companion complained, however, that it didn't seem likely that the young punks would invite this old dude into their innermost den like that, and I agreed, but the audience would feel cheated, so we can't have that.  And like D-Fens in Falling Down, Harry emerges triumphant with a jimbag full of guns and whatnot.
It'll take finer minds than mine to comb through all the references to other films, especially the Luc Besson / Robert Mark Kamen ones, but the filmmakers at Marv Studios do what they can to keep the proceedings as fresh and immediate as possible, even though it's a Death Wish remake.  I hate to say that they leave no cliché unturned, but there's one character who's not quite what he or she seems, which might force some of you to rewatch the movie to see how different the spin is on things a second time.  I think I got it all the first.  Michael Caine does great as always... but, to my shame, I couldn't help but wonder what Brian Brown would've done with the part.  I guess they'd have to change the title to Harry Caine, for one...

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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