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They protest too much

Yesterday I got all annoyed over the smallest thing. You see, I was reading all these reviews of a movie called Harry Brown and the reviews were all about how unrealistic the movie was.

I am sure that Harry Brown is an unrealistic movie. It belongs to a genera know as “action movies.” People don’t watch “action movies” because it provides them with realism. Watch all of the most critically acclaimed “action movies” and you will not find a one of them that came close to being realistic. It is not what those types of movies are about.

So I have to wonder about any reviewer who watches an action movie an starts complaining about how unrealistic it is. And I really have to wonder when they start saying things like this…..

A film that initially shows an affinity with the social concerns of a Ken Loach feature slowly begins to venture into Michael Winner territory. Harry’s brutal encounter with sleazy scumbag Stretch (Sean Harris at his most repellent) tips the balance away from reality towards the more outlandish.

The estate becomes a place overrun with feral young lads, dealing drugs in the local pub, spitting in the face of authority and brandishing guns at the slightest provocation. The police are either well-intentioned but ineffectual like inspector Alice Frampton (Emily Mortimer) or smugly complacent in the case of Superintendent Charles (Iain Glen).

This was actually a rather tame comment compared to some of the ones that I read. But the same basic theme was expounded on in almost all of the reviews that I read. The complaint can be summarized as “The cops and the thugs were made to look bad.”

And I am sorry, but I find this hard to swallow. These are same newspapers are always talking about the problems of institutional racism in the police forces. They are always hammering on the police forces for using excessive force or not doing enough to tackle the causes of crime.

So when they go on about how “Harry Brown” is a bad movie for making the cops seem dumb and ineffectual I can’t help but be a bit skeptical. Would they have really minded if the cops were made to seem dumb and ineffectual in handling the problems of some poor third world immigrants to modern day Great Britain? Would the movie have been panned so harshly if Harry Brown was about fighting white supremacists who were mistreating everyone who was the wrong color?

I can’t read hearts and minds, but I bet that a movie about Harry Brown fighting white supremacists would be called “heartwarming” or other such things. I bet the only reason that journalist are coming out the of the woodwork to complain about how a movie is portraying police is because this movie portrays the police as failing a specific group of people—old, middle class, white men who have fought in their country’s wars and paid taxes everyday of their lives.

Old white men are the only class of people where it is “unrealistic” to portray the police as failing to take care of their legitimate needs.

For what it is worth, this is what the poor slandered cops of Great Britain say…..

What the film does get right is the relative powerlessness of the police nowadays – there’s an empty suit of a Superintendent, meaningless meetings, interviews where smug kids “know their rights”, and an emphasis on figures over results. The one officer who wants to do something about the problem gets threatened with being moved elsewhere.

As for me, I have only seen the trailer. I was struck by two things. The first is how all the portrayals of gang violence seem like they came right out of the news in the U.K. And second, I was stuck by how every portrayal of Harry Brown with a gun made it seemed like the director of the film had never heard that “For every action there must be an equal and opposite reaction.”

I find it kind of funny that all the reviews that were complaining about the unrealistic nature of what seemed most realistic to me, and yet none of them complained about the unrealistic nature of the handling of guns (except for those that said Harry Brown was too old for that sort of work, but that is a different subject).

I can’t help but think that the reviewers’ real problem was that the movie was too realistic in its portrayal of the depravity of man and the failing culture in Great Britain.

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