Harry Brown is an entertaining and interesting film, but I have to admit, many aspects of the film disturbed me. In many ways this is a vigilante film very much like Death Wish, his vigilantism being initiated by the murder of his best friend and the great sense of nihilism upon the death of his wife. Most of the villains in this film are heinous enough to manipulate the viewer into a sense of satisfaction in seeing these monsters get their just deserts.
However, there is more to this film than just vigilante entertainment. The film offers a perverse view of the police force. It seems totally impotent or even criminally incompetent when it fails to protect Harry's friend or address the visceral gang problem in his neighbourhood. Yet, once they get a whiff of vigilantism on the part of Harry Brown, they suddenly seem to garner serious interest in their work to the point of almost police harassment. It seems easier to go after an old man rather than a vicious gang. Particularly disgusting is the attitude of the police woman is this film, her bleeding heart convictions totally clouding her judgment and role within the reality of this situation, in which she seems to show more emotional concern for vicious criminals rather than their victims, to the point where she leads her partner to being murdered on some misguided pursuit of justice.
Nevertheless, the film deserves credit for not showing Harry Brown as an avenging angel, but as a man who increasingly makes his soul ugly with his vigilantism. Particularly cruel was his treatment of a sexually abused teenage boy who was a member of the gang that killed his friend. It was obvious this boy was a member out of a sense of social survival, yet Brown's treatment of him was as immoral as anything the criminal gang would have done. In this way I think the film effectively portrays how vigilantism ultimately is a false sense of justice due to its subjective nature.
Even at his advanced age, Michael Caine can still deliver a charismatic star performance as a leading man in a film. Very impressive.