USA Film Festival

29 04 2010

Last night the 40th Annual USA Film Festival opened at the Angelika Theater in Dallas.   The festival will run through Sunday May 2nd over which time there will be at least 20 films being screened.  Opening night had three films showing at 7pm.  DRONES directed by Amber Benson and Adam Busch, LA MISSION directed by Peter Bratt and starring his brother Benjamin Bratt, and the film I saw HARRY BROWN which starred Michael Caine.


Director Daniel Barber has already reached incredible heights with just two films to his name.  Barber won the Oscar for best short film – THE TONTO WOMAN (2007).

Director Daniel Berber

He took that success into feature length films with HARRY BROWN, a film about a retired Royal Marine and widower who lives in a run down public-housing complex in London.  The powerful film mixes frantic viral style shooting with long quiet takes to tell the story of a man who has seen and taken enough punishment.  The complex has been overtaken by a group of thuggish teens and young men who reign havoc on the community.  One of the people the thugs attack and murder happens to be Harry’s best (and only remaining) friend Leonard (brilliantly played by David Bradley).

Leonard (David Bradley) and Harry (Michael Caine)

We see the breakdown of Harry Brown as he loses literally everyone he knows.  One night Harry finishes drowning his sorrows at the local pub and is attacked by one of the thugs who attacked Leonard.  The young man tries to stab the elderly man when Harry quickly reacts and stabs the thug and leaves him to die.  The rest of the film is how Harry reacts to this death and how the complex becomes a war zone over the slew of drug related and unsolved murders.  Emily Mortimer plays lead Detective Alice Frampton who is assigned to the murder of Leonard.

Alice Frampton (Emily Mortimer)

The spiraling events that happen after Harry kills the young thug opens our eyes to the massive epidemic that plagues so many lower income areas through out the world.   One of the lines from the film that stands out is when Harry is yelling at Alice about how he fought the Irish (when he was in the Royal Marines) and they had something they were fighting over, these children murder, rob and destroy without cause.  The film mirrors the plot lines of DEATH WISH, DIRTY HARRY and GRAN TORINO.  All these films have similar by-lines to HARRY BROWN – “Ever Man has a Breaking Point”.   The film has a producer credit for Matthew Vaughan.  I’m not sure how involved Vaughan was on the film, but its easy to see that his influence has started a group of British filmmakers to re-vitalize the “gangster/drug films”.  Matthew Vaughan gained world wide acclaim as the producer partner of Guy Ritchie.  Vaughan entered the spot light with his ground-breaking gangster film LAYER CAKE which marked his directorial debut.  With Vaughan’s name behind HARRY BROWN the film should reach more audiences and get the much needed recognition it deserves.  Its a harsh film to watch, especially the viral video style opening that immediately sets the danger aspect of living in this area of London, but also in the dark tones and underworld that Harry is thrown into.   A sequence late in the film where Harry is going to purchase a gun from some local drug-dealing hoods, has the 70 year-old actor enter a haunting dungeon-like apartment for one of the most spooky scenes of the whole film.  Vigilante films can come across to violent and too over-the-top.  HARRY BROWN is not one of those films and I highly recommend it.  It releases this May and will be playing locally at the Angelika Plano as of May 14th.

The USA Film Festival has some wonderful films.  PSD will be seeing a handful and give you the full scoop.  But make the time to see some of these films and show your support for one of the longest running film festivals in the south.




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