Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Harry Brown & the Superhero Vigilante Complex.

Harry Brown is not your everyday vigilante super hero movie. Nor is it a character study of a man at the end of his tether, frustrated at the lawless ways of London's "Estate" and the impotence of the police. It is a thrilling depiction of the potential held by normal citizens to "do what must be done" and to "be the change you want to see in the world".  Although it does portray the title character as a hero, we question his methods even if we sympathize with his plight and accept his motives as pure. Director Daniel Barber shoots some tremendously gruesome scenes, with both the opening sequence and the finale depicting horrific, bloody deaths.

Harry Brown shows the depths to which an essentially good man will sink to regain a sense of normalcy. A former Royal Marine with repressed memories of past military activity, Brown seeks to eliminate the threat posed by the local youth gang by out thinking them and by operating alone, as no one believes a man of his  advanced years would be capable of revenge, let alone murder.

This quality film provokes debate amongst its viewers, as it leaves them in a state of limbo, neither barracking for or against the protagonist Harry Brown, whose actions are quietly accepted but not acknowledged by the police.The final scene, wherein the chief of police denies any vigilante involvement and takes all the credit for himself, indicates that Brown  has escaped the rule of the law, and has been granted immunity for his actions. Just like other super heroes, who take the law into their own hands to do what "they feel" is right, Brown acts in a selfish manner to gain revenge over the death of his close friend, which he rationalizes as "doing the public a service", by helping to 'clean up the streets'.

Just as Batman and Spiderman pursue 'wrongdoers' in the name of justice, Brown acts with neither mandate nor method. Acting on instinct and impulse, Brown skirts the police as he takes action against those he has a problem with. Just as Bruce Wayne sought revenge for the brutal murder of his parents, and Peter Parker took revenge upon the man that killed his Uncle, Harry only takes action once he has personally been affected by the "estate gangs". The principle difference between vigilantes and authorized officers of the law is without doubt the emotional connection the vigilante feels towards the victim. Being emotionally driven to take action, however, is not always a good thing, as the decision making process of the vigilante is compromised by the grief and their actions are driven by hatred. Even though the police may be hamstrung by onerous laws which demand proof beyond reasonable doubt, their is still no good reason for people to take the law into their own hands.  
The Age Review 1
The Age Review 2

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