England 2009. Gangs of feral teens rule our streets, with guns, knives and alcohol-fueled acts of violence creating abject misery for those unlucky enough to merely breathe the same air.
Meet Harry Brown: ex Marine and old aged pensioner who visits his comatose wife in hospital, and enjoys a pint with close friend Leonard (David Bradley) just to remind himself he's still alive.
We're in the East End of London here, and it soon becomes apparent that the low life scum who see the area as their 'manor' are making life hell for the residents of a squalid council estate.
When Brown (beautifully played by Michael Caine) receives an urgent call summoning him to his wife's bedside, his decision not to take a shortcut through a nearby subway costs him the chance to bid his spouse one last goodbye.
Soon, Harry's life is blighted a second time and something inside him snaps, compelling him to wage a one-man war on the hoodlums who frequent the shadowy depths of the subway, and regularly invade the homes of frightened citizens.
HARRY BROWN has, inevitably, drawn comparison with Clint Eastwood's powerful GRAN TORINO and it's a worthwhile comparison with Eastwood's film more measured but not necessarily more passionate. Scorsese's TAXI DRIVER may also be a nostalgic line of reference; particularly the scene where Brown is shown an array of weapons during a tense encounter in a drug dealers den.
While some of the characters in this film are none too well drawn - particularly the forces of law & order - HARRY BROWN is ultimately a hard-hitting account of the way things are in a country crying out for a drastic change in the way we deal with what are quite simply monsters. Michael Caine excels as the OAP vigilante, inspiring a whole range of emotions and, I strongly suspect, a widespread fervent wish that more Harry Brown's would rise up and conduct a much-needed spring clean of our streets.
Yes, the violence is explicit at times and the language is way past industrial but there's a real humanity in evidence that is extremely moving.