In 1971 Michael Caine starred in an interesting movie from a first time director. In “Get Carter,” Caine plays a stone killer in a London mob. He learns that his brother has died under suspicious circumstances up north in his home of Newcastle. He goes back home to find the people who killed his brother to enact revenge on the murderers and those, it develops, who prostituted his niece.
Fast forward to 2009, forty years to a movie called “Harry Brown.” It’s the story of a former marine, played by none other than Michael Caine who has had a fine career in the interim. When the film opens, Brown’s wife has just died and he is bereft. He has but one friend, Leonard Attwell. Then Leonard is murdered by the bullies who have over-run the estate where Harry has retired in something just above poverty level. These estates, which are scattered across the UK, and were apparently constructed as ways to house all manner of low-income citizens, have become, in some cases, seething sites of crime.
So, for somewhat similar reasons, Michael Caine becomes, once again, a sort of avenging angel, calling on his skills as a veteran marine, to largely lay waste to the criminal element in his neighborhood. There are several parallels in the films, some of which must have drawn Caine to the latter project. The directors of both were first-time feature directors, the character of Carter-Brown is similar, the underlying theme of vigilante justice is consistent. Both feature violence of the most explicit kind. Even the sex is fairly explicit, although, given his age, Mr. Caine is a viewer in the latter, instead of a performer as in the former film. “Get Carter,” disabused film audiences once and for all that British gangsters are as nasty as American, and perhaps just as important, that British film directors can be as subtle as any others. Just pay close attention to the people and their jewelry, in the compartment in “Get Carter,” as he goes north to Newcastle.