Author Topic: "Fancy the pictures, me Duck?": The British Film Marathon  (Read 12138 times)

Najemikon

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"Fancy the pictures, me Duck?": The British Film Marathon
« on: February 06, 2011, 07:57:39 PM »
I seem to have built up an eclectic mix of British film, new and old that I haven't got round to reviewing, so I thought I'd have a separate thread for them. Hopefully show a bit of variety. It isn't all Four Weddings, Full Monty and gangsters calling each other "slag", you know. ;)

Najemikon

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Harry Brown ***
« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2011, 08:04:04 PM »
Harry Brown
3 out of 5



In the UK we do have a real problem with anti-social behaviour from groups of teenagers who are allowed to congregate in public areas, where they can quickly become abusive, fuelled on cheap alcohol provided by any means. At the very least, their mere presence is a threat to regular people, but it can escalate to them roaming like gangs and even largely taking control of areas like council estates or parks. It leaves their neighbours scared to leave the house and tabloids use the images to portray “Broken Britain”. “Hoodies” is the catch-all term for these little bastards, be they full on villains with multiple ASBOs, or just mouthy thugs nicking Mars bars from the corner shop. Teenagers in general sadly get tarnished with the same brush and, in truth, it’s a small amount of troublemakers allowed to get out of control by a justice system that simply doesn’t account for their behaviour, and parents who defend their sweet children regardless of whether they believe them capable of knocking over Grannies or not.

Despite being a real threat, for many people, the Hoodie is an urban Bogey Man. It’s no fun walking through a crowd of youths late at night who are ready and willing to find any excuse for violence, but it’s the idea of what they can do that is scary. And the idea that someone could come along and sweep up the shit with vigilante justice is a welcome thought for many people. That’s where I thought Harry Brown came in and if it had stuck with that, I think it would be a better film.

It opens with a scene that perfectly demonstrates what I was saying above. A couple of thugs are using a mobile phone to film themselves racing around drunk in park on a bike. One of them has a gun and in their perverse idea of larking around, they accidentally shoot a young mother in the head and then get themselves splattered by a lorry. This is a perfect start. It exploits what we think these youths are capable of, while out of control and rendering a local park as a no-go area. Even if it’s rare, Dirty Harry style, it gets the viewer angry because we know it can happen and will if someone doesn’t sort it out.

We are soon introduced to that potential sorter outer, Harry Brown, played by Michael Caine, and the story unfolds with him keeping to himself, dealing with his wife’s hospitalisation and death. He lives a quiet life, visiting his friend, Leonard (David Bradley). Leonard is frightened because he is being terrorised by the local thugs and he finally rises to them. They beat him to death, but leave nothing for the coppers to go on. [understament]Harry, is not best pleased[/understatement].

The actor who played Jack Carter? A character who is an ex-Marine with a grudge? Going all Gran Torino on these sods? Settle in. This is going to be fun! All righteous, no nonsense, string-‘em-up retribution.

And for a while, it is. As Harry deflects the police to investigate for himself, it’s evocative stuff seeing him as an old man brought to life by targeting low-end drug dealers. There is a wonderful moment in Leonard’s burnt out flat where he peers out a crack in the window onto the local hang-out for the youths. Later, a set piece where he clears out a drug den and rescues a girl is fantastic. Caine is quite frankly awesome in this role. It’s a largely claustrophobic story and he is brilliant at portraying both the old man in a quiet routine and the sharp, skilled ex-soldier with catchphrases! OK, he can do it blind-folded, but he does round out the character with genuine emotion. This film has been called Britain’s Gran Torino by some, but that is very misleading. However, that’s not to say it doesn’t have similar depth.

Emily Mortimer is great as the loner police woman who starts to suspect Brown might be responsible for the recent killings, while her colleagues scoff, but here the problems start. There is a hint of a past that helps her sympathise with Brown and a suggestion she asked to be transferred to the worst area possible for some reason that is never fleshed out. That was annoying.

A much bigger problem is that the story expands to suggest the youths are organised foot-soldiers for a local drug-lord and willing to commit cold-blooded murder to get up the ranks. That might be the case in some areas, but it’s at odds with the premise that exploits the fact that their real-life counterparts are not organised. By giving them too much credit, the scary side of the plot is undermined because we can’t identify with the situation anymore. It also misses a fantastic opportunity to ask a difficult moral question: would Brown be an acceptable alternative to the police, considering half the problem is that the courts are dealing with fresh faced children? By making them low-level gangsters, it lets Brown off the hook and a very interesting film has suddenly pulled its punches and become silly. And that’s all before we find out who the local drug baron is (ridiculous!) and a full-scale riot on the estate is contrived out of seemingly nowhere.

Damn shame. Daniel Barber has directed a very good film that does brilliantly well to shake off the clichés of being a British thriller, while being violently relevant (it even says so on the cover!) :P. Having the iconic actor from Get Carter in the lead is an ace and the rest of the cast are excellent and also avoid stereotypes, especially Joe Cornish in a small role; I know him from soap-land and he is also great in This Is England, but this is the first time I’ve seen him as a completely different character. Rapper Plan B plays the lead thug and he too is very good, clearly putting a lot of work into the role. The writing is great and surprisingly subtle considering the premise (watch the sombre sequence of Leonard’s funeral and wake).

It just went so silly. But I can still recommend it as both a piece of solid entertainment and a sign that maybe British film is becoming more flexible that it can take a well-trod genre (if ‘Grimy British Northern Thriller’ is a genre!) and make it feel vibrant and fresh.
« Last Edit: February 06, 2011, 08:06:00 PM by Jon »

Offline Jimmy

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Re: "Fancy the pictures, me Duck?": The British Film Marathon
« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2011, 10:03:07 PM »
Any chance that you talk about some british comedy? You know what kind of comedy I talk about of course :whistle:

Najemikon

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Re: "Fancy the pictures, me Duck?": The British Film Marathon
« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2011, 10:19:24 PM »
 :laugh:

Unlikely I would have thought! Unless you meant Carry On?  :whistle:

Offline Jimmy

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Re: "Fancy the pictures, me Duck?": The British Film Marathon
« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2011, 10:32:57 PM »
The Carry On set is part on my wishlist Jon, so feel free to review some. If you have some Pete Walker's movies I don't own yet I would be interested to know your impressions too.

Najemikon

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Re: "Fancy the pictures, me Duck?": The British Film Marathon
« Reply #5 on: February 06, 2011, 10:55:18 PM »
Sorry, no Pete Walker here. Not my thing really...  :bag: Maybe Die Screaming Marianne, but even then, it's unlikely.

Can I interest you in social coming of age dramas, such as Billy Liar or Saturday Night Sunday Morning? ;)

Offline Jimmy

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Re: "Fancy the pictures, me Duck?": The British Film Marathon
« Reply #6 on: February 06, 2011, 11:26:54 PM »
Sure sometimes I fall on some of those films while I check amazon uk and they seems interesting, but I don't know a lot of thing about them. Too bad you don't like Pete Walker, Man of Violence one of his early film is on my wishlist and I would had like to know more about it (because the release is more costly than usual).

BTW BFI had many dvd who look great to me like Permissive (1970), The Pleasure Girls (1966), Privilege (1967), London In The Raw (1964), A Taste of Excitement (1969), The Party's Over (1965), etc.

Anyway you know that my tastes are more diversified than many seem to think they are...


Najemikon

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Re: "Fancy the pictures, me Duck?": The British Film Marathon
« Reply #7 on: February 06, 2011, 11:33:13 PM »
Oh, I know. That's what the wink was for!  :laugh:

The BFI are marvellous. I think you have the opportunity to pick up a couple of theirs, you should. Really great value discs. Like Criterion, really.

I thought of this one actually, as it seems to be a very insightful look at British films in the 70s. The included sequel is actually a kind of 'making of' for the first one:

Nighthawks & Nighthawks II

Offline Kathy

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Re: "Fancy the pictures, me Duck?": The British Film Marathon
« Reply #8 on: February 06, 2011, 11:35:46 PM »
I didn't think there was enough British films for a marathon!  :tease:

Najemikon

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Re: "Fancy the pictures, me Duck?": The British Film Marathon
« Reply #9 on: February 06, 2011, 11:37:27 PM »
:laugh:

Is that a challenge, missus?

Offline goodguy

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Re: "Fancy the pictures, me Duck?": The British Film Marathon
« Reply #10 on: February 07, 2011, 02:23:47 AM »
So you will finally get around to watching Repulsion then?  :whistle:

For the newer stuff: Anything from Michael Winterbottom, David Mackenzie, Pawel Pawlikowski, Lynne Ramsay, Andrea Arnold...?
Matthias

Najemikon

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Re: "Fancy the pictures, me Duck?": The British Film Marathon
« Reply #11 on: February 07, 2011, 06:14:34 PM »
So you will finally get around to watching Repulsion then?  :whistle:

For the newer stuff: Anything from Michael Winterbottom, David Mackenzie, Pawel Pawlikowski, Lynne Ramsay, Andrea Arnold...?

Repulsion is on my LoveFilm list actually. Damn thing never dropped to a reasonable price.

Winterbottom has never grabbed me as a must see. I'd probably watch Killer Inside Me at some point anyway, but I wouldn't include it here because it's an American story. This thread will be for distinctly British film. I'll be doing Shane Meadows stuff for instance. Of the others, Perfect Sense looks interesting from McKenzie, but I didn't like Pawlikowski's Summer of Love at all. Morvern Caller from Ramsay isn't on my radar, but you never know. However, I do have Andrea Arnold's Red Road! The Blu was £5 at Zavvi, so I thought it worth a punt. ;)

Offline goodguy

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Re: "Fancy the pictures, me Duck?": The British Film Marathon
« Reply #12 on: February 08, 2011, 04:25:13 AM »
Winterbottom has never grabbed me as a must see. I'd probably watch Killer Inside Me at some point anyway, but I wouldn't include it here because it's an American story.

I was thinking more of the films he made in the '90s (that still counts as new compared to 1965). Wonderland, which is clearly my favorite, or even I Want You (A thriller! With Rachel Weisz!! Doesn't that tempt you?). I have yet to see Butterfly Kiss, but it sounds quite remarkable too.

...but I didn't like Pawlikowski's Summer of Love at all.

:weep: There really is no future for us, Jon.  :weep:

Morvern Caller from Ramsay isn't on my radar, but you never know.

What about Ratcatcher then? That should be pretty close to Shane Meadows.

However, I do have Andrea Arnold's Red Road! The Blu was £5 at Zavvi, so I thought it worth a punt. ;)

I haven't seen anything from her yet, but like Lynne Ramsay, she seems to have made quite an impression with only two films. Fish Tank sounds slightly more interesting to me than Red Road (I suppose for you it's the other way around), but I definitely want to see both.
Matthias


Najemikon

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Re: "Fancy the pictures, me Duck?": The British Film Marathon
« Reply #14 on: February 12, 2011, 03:01:27 AM »
Thanks, Kathy. Mostly TV stuff there and unfortunately, really just Sunday evening fare, like Midsommer Murders (an inadvertently hilarious series set in a sleepy village; it ran so long, any normal village would have been overflowing with corpses!) or Agatha Christie adaptations.

I did spot Tipping The Velvet. I know there is a healthy lesbian interest on here, so that might be of interest.