Saturday, November 14, 2009

HARRY BROWN - the only permissable bigotry

These days you can't hate people on the grounds of their race, sexual orientation, religion or political views. The only permissable form of bigotry in the UK is the hatred of the white working class, and in particular, white working class kids. The right-wing middle-class media make a living from depicting chav kids as feral, dope-addled, knife-wielding granny botherers and social menaces. English society is in decay! Suburbia is lawless! And it's all because a bunch of uneducated kids have taken to drinking cans of Super-tenants outside Burger King at 11 at night while wearing fake Burberry caps, and driving modified Novas. It says a lot about how insecure post-modern, recession-bound Britain is that the only new cinema we seem to be capable of producing is either lauding the "glory" days of 1980s soccer hooliganism (punching people IS our proud heritage) or decrying working class violence. Whether the films are glorifying or condemning chav-violence, they are still making the lethal assumption that this is the way life is. And you think to yourself, does Mike Leigh work in vain?

HARRY BROWN is a good film. It's technically well-made, visually impressive, suspenseful, and features a great central performance from Michael Caine as a pensioner who turns violent on the teenage drug-pushers terrorising his estate. There's a satisfyingly slow-build to a pretty convincing revenge thriller. Caine has some nice Tarantino-style one-liners while dispatching a dope-peddler. There's even some astute critiquing of how the police are riven by spin and politicking. Emily Mortimer gives a nuanced performance and Iain Glenn is absolutely menacing. There's no denying it - this is a good film. I would have really loved it had I not been continually wary of the fact that I was watching a sort of middle-class angst-porn, designed to push all my buttons as a tax-paying constructive member of society meant to be living in fear of being knifed on the Central Line.

I don't buy the Daily Mail and I'm not buying this. I don't care how nice the packaging and how gritty the performances.

HARRY BROWN played Toronto 2009 and is on release in the UK. It opens in the Netherlands on February 25th 2010.

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