An Open Letter To The Makers Of ‘Harry Brown’

To Daniel Barber, Gary Young and all,

A couple of weeks ago I had the displeasure of watching your film ‘Harry Brown’. I was fortunate enough to get paid to watch it, so this isn’t an attempt to ask for my money back, instead I’m here to ask one simple question. What is this film?


Is it an attempt at a ‘horror’ film in the style of ‘Eden Lake’? If so hats off to you guys. It left me shaken and upset, as good horror films should and had the pre-requisite of 2-dimensional, truly ‘evil’ characters that deserved nothing more than death, which the audience, myself included, hoped would be dished out by the excellent Mr. Caine.

Or is it pornography for Daily Mail readers? A wank-fantasy that they can strum themselves off to sleep to in their deluded state that Britain truly is a broken place where such a retched hive of scum and villainy, as presented in your film, walk the streets terrorising everyone they meet just to get their rocks off.

If that is the case then apologies from me, you didn’t make the film with a lefty-Guardian reading hippy like me in mind. No harm done, you can stop reading now.

Or were you attempting to make a documentary-style expose of the lives of people on Council Estates? If so, you’ve done a bad, bad job. By making your film so unashamedly one-sided (Kids are evil, Harry is justice, Harry is right) the element of film-maker as documentarian falls completely flat. You’ve painted anyone under the age of 20 with such a broad stroke that they become characatures of the, already discussed, Daily Mail fantasy.

You’ve also failed as a ‘documentarian’ to give any reasoning behind the behaviour of the gang. Most people working with inner-city gangs will state that the main reason kids are attracted to gang culture is that they themselves are scared. The gang is their protection from fear. An exacerbated problem that your film never attempts to raise. Instead they are just drawn as true scum of the highest order deserving of Harry’s vigilantism.

If this is purely a piece of entertainment then one huge question remains. When did subtlety go out of the window in films? The scene in the drug dealers lair was as abhorrent and distasteful as a ‘Saw’ or ‘Hostel’ film. A half dead young girl being repeatedly raped on video for almost 10 minutes is the definition of unneccesary. If, in a film like ‘Irreversible’, it is done for a reason (to anger and upset and want the retribution that you’ve just seen is folly) then it is done for a reason. The only reason I can think of for it’s inclusion here is to make it okay for Harry to kill the villain with impunity.

It’s beneficial for your response that I mention I’m a fairly lucky person. I was born in a nice part of the country to loving, caring parents. I’ll be the first to admit that my thoughts are misguided and a little naive. I do look for good in people, I do believe there are multiple angles to every story and I do wish “we could all get along”.

But one thing I do know a little about is films. Not a lot, but a little, and I have no idea what your film is? It’s been almost uniformally praised so I must be missing something but I’ve yet to find a single review that answers any of my questions. Maybe you can.

Yours Faithfully,

Owen Nicholls

And if anyone else not present in the making of this film wants to share their opinion below, I’d be glad to hear your take on what I found to be a truly detestable piece of cinema that left the kind of taste in my mouth that a pint of Listerine couldn’t get out.