Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Islam4UK To Cancel Remaining Tour Dates

Just found this on the same hard drive, must have been written some time in January 2010. Can't think why I wouldn't have published it...

So, Islam4UK, the Muslim boyband fronted by singer/songwriter Anjem Choudary have called off their upcoming gig in Wootton Bassett, the largely tweed jewel in Wiltshire's crown.

Islam4UK aren't your average boyband, with a distinct political slant to their crooning - showcased in such hits as 'Sharia My Dear' and the Dr Dre produced 'Cali-phate Love' - which has led them to be likened to such bands as Rage Against The Machine and Zig and Zag.

Islam4UK are an unofficial offshoot of the 'rad-rad-radical' underground Islamic funk movement known as al-Muhajiroun. The group al-Muhajiroun were officially banned from producing pop records in 2005 when then lead singer was banned from the UK when former Home Secretary and Mousekateer Charles Clarke deemed the singers' guitar driven tunes as 'not conducive to the public good.'

Bursting onto the scene at an impromptu park concert entitled 'Summer Ummah' in September 2002, they quickly attracted attention with their imaginative stage dressings, including flaming model aeroplanes and pappier mache twin towers, and a distinctively powerful encore song in 'Stone You Baby One More Time'.

Critics have called the cancellation of the gig a 'cynical media stunt'. North Wiltshire MP James Gray was quoted as saying;

'He [Choudary] was trying to make a cynical political statement, the whole announcement was to get media coverage via this stunt – he admitted that himself – and he achieved it cynically, using this media stunt. He received lots of coverage. It was a media stunt. It was unfortunate he's used Wootton ­Bassett in achieving this, it was really quite cynical, this stunt.'

Indeed, previously slumping ticket sales in what would be the ninth Summer Ummah have already received a fifty percent increase, whilst stocks of Islam4UK naked calendars and tankards have run completely dry, leaving the band's manager Simon Cowell forced to reemploy much of the child workforce, some now as old as thirteen and nearing retirement, used during the Spiceworld campaign.

Animal Behaviour - revisited

I just found this on a portable hard drive we bought in Bolivia. God knows.

It is said that men, given half a chance, will act like animals.

For instance, take my flat mate, Robin. He's an ass. He's pretty clueless when it comes to the birds and the bees, but being as mad as a March hare, he honestly thinks he's the bee's knees. The black sheep of our group of mates, he lives in cloud cuckoo land. The way he carps on about women, he's like a dog on heat. Honestly, he could talk the hind legs off a donkey.

All of his successful cat and mouse games have one thing in common though, we're never there to witness them. 

So, after a particularly spicy cock and bull story one day at football, we decided to join him that evening and watch him in action - fly on the wall style. Plus, I'd recently split up with my girlfriend, so, newly free as a bird, I thought I'd put the cat amongst the pigeons and see if I couldn't kill two birds with one stone. See if what was good for the goose was still good for the gander. For the last few months, female interaction had been as rare as rocking-horse shit.

So, dressed up like a dog's dinner, we stroll into this bar in our little one horse town. The place wasn't big enough to swing a cat in and was as rough as a badger's arse, but Robin promised come nine o'clock it would turn into a cattle market. We hoped so, because at first glance it was truly pony.

The clientèle were a rag-tag bunch, mostly mutton dressed as lamb. To think any different you'd have to be as blind as a bat, but Rob obviously felt like he had something to prove – namely that females automatically think that he's hung like a donkey – and he was nervously fidgeting like he had ants in his pants. So we relocated to the balcony for a bird's eye view on proceedings. 

His bird-brained theory was that when it comes to fillies, the early bird catches the worm, so he headed to the bar. And if there's one thing this boy can do, it's drink. Like a fish. Pretty soon he'd had a fair few beers, he'd got pissed as a newt and the monkey business began.

I already felt dog tired, and honestly a little bit like a fish out of water, but Robin had a mission. Not one to chicken out, he grabbed the bull by the horns and began to scout the room like an eager beaver, whilst we sat there and watched him dance around like a headless chicken.

After an unproductive period, Rob came up to join us and filled us in on the plan – get out his puppy dog eyes and watch 'the bitches' be drawn like so many moths to a flame. We'd already started to regret following him to this den, but, as Eric would say, as seagulls we were following the trawler because we expected sardines. The problem was, we were only witnessing trout fishing.

So far it seemed that our man's plan was to get as drunk as a skunk. And that was it. We were convinced that he wasn't going to get anywhere, dancing around knocking into people like a bull in a china shop. But stone the crows, eventually his hard work paid off. Look what the cat had dragged in! This old duck, all pigeon toed and dog eared, asked him to buy him a drink.

She was dressed as crazy as a box of frogs, with a camel toe the size of my wallet. But, never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, he cleared the frog from his throat and duly accepted. 

Beaming up at us like the Cheshire cat that had got the cream, proud as a peacock, as he'd not only proved his point he'd gone and found a cash cow. That sly fox was a snake in the grass all along!

Cash was something that I'd lost that night, having bet that he wouldn't get a sniff. I was as sick as a parrot. But preferring to take the chance on being hung as a sheep as well as a lamb than going home empty handed – I bet double or quits that he wouldn't seal the deal.

The thing was, Robin had counted his chickens before they'd hatched, forgetting that a bird in the hand isn't always the same as being in a bush. Having got the nod from his ladybug, we'd made for the exit to go back to ours.

It was raining cats and dogs as we queued up for the taxi, when a bull of a man came up to us and pushed Robin in his pigeon chest. He looked angry, with a face like a bulldog licking piss off nettles. My mate looked up at this dragon of a man and suddenly became as quiet as a church mouse. The man barked something about his girlfriend being 'as slippery as an eel' and how 'a leopard never changes it's spots'.

But she replied with something, stubborn as a mule, about 'making a mountain out of a mole hill' and that it wasn't as though they had been 'at it like rabbits'. Unfortunately, my friend let the cat out of the bag and said 'That's not what you told me was going to happen'.

This was the straw that broke the camel's back. The bulldog pushed his bird out of the way and turned and squared up to my mate – looking like he's just about to go ape shit. My mate now thinks he's going the way of the dodo - you could see the goose pimples on his arms and practically hear his barking spider tense up – but before he had the chance to chicken out and leg it like a rat up a drainpipe, the old mother hen chirped in that there was a policeman coming and, like the Worm Wot Turned, slapped the big bloke around his chops.

As the pig picked up his approach, the bulldog, strong as an ox, picked up his girlfriend and shifted her out of the way. My mate, who had been jigging around like a cat on a hot tin roof, saw his chance – and donkey punched the bloke in the side of his head.

At that, like a bat out of hell I frog marched Robin into the taxi and sped off, only looking back to see the ox being nabbed by bacon. The law is an ass.

When we finally got home, after a quick cat nap in the back of the taxi, I bid Robin goodnight, tucked him in and told him not to let the bedbugs bite. 

Half an hour later I stuck my head round the door to tell him to stop snoring like a pig, when I realised he was actually rabbiting on in his sleep – about how beautiful the girl was and how he'd beaten up this massive bloke – I was going to wake him up to laugh at him – but I thought it'd be best to let sleeping dogs lie. Nothing but another elephant in the room.
Tomorrow was another day, and the world was our oyster.

Next time, a post without a single animal orientated simile – just to prove I'm not a one trick pony.

Friday, 27 November 2009

In other news...

How cool is this dog?

Ire Land

Poor old Ireland. Cheated out of a place at next year’s World Cup by a cynical hand ball. I truly do feel for the fans, and even more so for the players, many of whom won’t get the chance to play on that stage, the biggest footballing party in the world, ever again.

Since I first drafted this article there have been many revelations, the fact that FIFA will not even consider a replay, Roy Keane coming out and ranting to the effect of ‘what goes around comes around’ (and then somehow swinging the topic around to himself, incredible…) and now Henry saying that he feels let down by the FFF and that he considered quitting international football.

Henry coming out with this is pretty outrageous. He wasn’t. He’s just got France to the last World Cup that he will be able to play in. He was never going to resign, but it did placate a few people. Although it made people with a modicum of sense even angrier.

It has gone as far as the Ireland's minister for justice Dermot Ahern calling for a replay, and the French minister for something or other, I don’t know, snails, agreeing with him.

The story appears to have legs (as well as hands) because of, amongst other things, the amount of conspiracy theorists claiming that Platini and Blatter are setting up the tournament. Nuttiness aside, however, the one constant has been the sanctimonious shit that the British press have been pumping out since last Wednesday night. And it’s unjustifiable. Ireland have been cheated, but the cheater is not the Devil incarnate.

Richard Williams in the Guardian had this to say;

Henry was a hopeless captain at Arsenal and he is a hopeless captain of France. On Wednesday he did not have the gumption to say, ‘OK, that wasn't a goal’ – an admission on which the referee would have been obliged to act – ‘but we'll use the remaining quarter of an hour's play to demonstrate that we are better than the Irish and more deserving of a place in the final 32 in South Africa next year.’

And, being Henry, he reacted to the final whistle not by celebrating with his team- mates but by making a show of going over and sitting down on the turf to commiserate with the dejected Richard Dunne, the most heroic of Irish players. He told Dunne that the Irish had deserved to win, and admitted that he had handled the ball. ‘But,’ he added, ‘I am not the referee.’

No, mon brave, but you are the captain of France, the country that gave us the World Cup, and here you had the chance to show us what sport can mean – or, at least, what we tell our children it means.

Our children? Oh fuck off. Anyone that has played football at any level would understand the decision that Henry made in that nanosecond. Picture the scene; you are one nil down in the deciding game to get your nation into the World Cup. You, as captain, are six yards in front of goal and the ball is going out, through a natural reaction you touch the ball with your hand, and this is where you make your decision, the ball is still going out – do you let it go out and bow out of international football, or do you move it towards your foot and set up the decisive goal that will see your team at next year’s World Cup?

His Holiness Patron Saint of Tattoos David Beckham has come out and defended Henry, after being asked what he would have done in the same situation, Beckham told Sky Sports News, ‘Who knows in that situation? You're playing in a qualifier to go through to the World Cup, you don't know what you're doing. I've been involved in big games and reacted to certain things and looked back and thought I was wrong to do that.’

How will David Beckham be remembered? As the man that got sent off and ruined England’s World Cup hopes? Or the man that ruined his life by marrying a crazy skeleton? Exactly.

At least Paul Hayward at the Guardian didn’t get carried away; ‘The double handball that sent France to South Africa at the Republic of Ireland's expense was the aristocracy micturating on the proletariat while law and order looked the other way.’

Which is a shame, as the proletariat really tied the room together… Piss off Hayward you twat.

Another point that needs to be made is that even if the goal had not stood, or indeed Henry had never handled in the first place and was unable to set up Gallas, then Ireland still would have had to survive another fifteen minutes of play against France and then go on to beat them on penalties. Which wouldn’t have happened, but I suppose that’s not the point…

There are also calls to look again at the penalty decision that went Ireland’s way when Shay Given brought down Anelka in the box. The more I watch it the more convinced I am that it’s a stonewall penalty.

I think it was Henry Winter, a man that I usually respect the opinion of, who said that Henry would go down in history as a cheat, rather than a great player – ‘like Maradona’. Having done a fair amount of travelling recently, I can put my two bobs worth in here. England – not even Britain – ENGLAND, is the only place that Maradona is remembered as being a cheat. In every other country in the world he is regarded as one of, if not the, best player of all time. If Henry will be remembered globally like Maradona – good!

There’s also a certain goal that happened forty odd years ago at Wembley that could be considered. Shall we get the Germans back for a replay? I’m not sure how many of them are still kicking about – pun intended.

But herein lies the rub. I'm afraid, some of the more vituperative comments are based on the fact WE (as in the British – or at least the Irish and the English) wanted the team in green to win and the team in blue to lose.

Another argument is ‘these things happen in football’.

(Bias warning) Rooney's dive ending Arsenal's ‘Invincible’ run. Owen's ‘heroics’ against the old enemy Argentina in 1998 and 2002. Gerrard's dive to spark the incredible comeback in Istanbul 2005. Robbie Keane tried his handball talents earlier in the exact same game, but obviously he needs to work on it more. Saying that he did very well against Georgia when he hand-balled on two separate occasions.

But, then again, that was against some random 'foreign' team – so there was no fuss made about it.

Raymond Domenech, the France coach. ‘I can see it is a mistake by the referee. To me this is the game and not cheating.’ This is pretty much how I see it. If it had happened at the other end the headlines would have read ‘Luck of the Irish’, ‘Four Fingered Clover’ and ‘Just in the craic of time’. (Thanks to Mr Blandamer for those.)

Tezza has been quoted as saying, ‘It was necessary to exploit what was exploitable.’ which probably won’t make him many friends. But it is true. That is sport. That’s life. That isn’t to excuse Henry. He cheated. My point is, so would you. And if you say you wouldn’t, you’re a liar. And if there’s one thing worse than a cheat, it’s a liar.

In conclusion, if there’s one thing that we can take out of the whole debacle, is that video replays are essential if the game is going to carry on getting faster, and having more and more money pumped into it.

The rules for football were invented when the average height of a man was 3ft 7 and the fastest man in the world ran the hundred metres in a week. Two linesmen and a ref was sufficient then, but it’s not anymore. It works in other sports, football would be no different. The ball is in play in an average match for under an hour – to suggest that the occasional referral to a video official would slow the game down is twaddle. The technology exists now. Just use it.

So finally, in case anyone was in any doubt, all Irish people are silly and Henry’s still my hero. I love him. And he loves me too. He said so.

Monday, 23 November 2009

2012: Apocalypse by the Numbers

Disaster directorman Roland Emmerich returns with yet another doomsday scenario explosion-athon. This time he has the spectacularly shocking budget of $160,000,000, and has determined – having previously employed aliens and global warming to do us in - that the end of the world will now be down to the cosmic alignment of the planets of the solar system. Or something.

Luckily, this sequence of events only happens every so often. The Mayans knew about it though apparently, which makes you wonder why they didn’t put more effort into warning anyone. Wankers. Worse, show offs and wankers. (In fact, in real life, they apparently just calculated it as the end of a calendar cycle or era. Boring wankers.)

Unexpectedly for an Emmerich film, it isn’t an American that ascertains the fate of the world and has to persuade the powers-what-be that the end is nigh, but an Indian geologist. Only for a bit though. It soon is down to American geologist Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) to mention this to anyone of real importance i.e. THE PRESIDENT OF THE US OF STATES, as the Indian chap is far too bashful, and he is soon crashing governmental parties to give a report to Heavy-Handed Selfish-Man played by Carl Anheuser.

Within seconds the Most Important Man on Earth™, President Danny Glover is informed and the humanity saving ball gets rolling. Whilst the American government (and a selection of some of the more marketable administrations) keeps the ticking clock of kismet a clandestine timepiece to the common people; they use the money of the world’s richest to fund the secret construction of seven ‘arks’ in, bizarrely, the Himalayas to save the crème of humanity. Or rather the small portion of humanity that has €1,000,000,000 to spare per ticket, ‘People like Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch and some rich Arabs.’

Flash-forward three years and Adrian is now trying to neck with the President’s daughter (played by Thandie Newton, in her sleep) and everybody else is ticking over without the knowledge that every single recognisable landmark in the world is about to explode in a ball of fuck.

Whilst all this is going on behind the scenes, John Cusack is mumbling along as the backwardly named Jackson Curtis, a divorced novelist-cum-limo driver who gets caught up in the shit-storm when he takes his overly-generic children to Yellowstone National Park for a camping trip. When the world begins to fall apart in front of his very eyes he quickly realises this could be a rather original way of winning his estranged wife back, cue the first of a series of impossible journeys.

What is it John? A flaccid storyline?

A swift aside; why is it necessary for action movies – and above all ‘end-of-the-world’ action movies - to have that particular brand of child actor that makes you want to cleave your eyes and ears from your writhing body and devour them rather than have to sit through another nanosecond of their soul crushingly dire acting? There should be a rule that if a child of divorced parents refers to his father by his first name, in this instance the retch-worthy Jackson, then the film should come with a ‘Consistent and Severe Lust’ warning.

Anyway, it’s in Yellowstone that Jackson meets Charlie Frost, Woody Harrelson in a mildly enjoyable turn as radio-presenting hippie-nutter who always knew it was going to happen (rather like the crazy crop duster from Independence Day and Dennis Quaid in The Day After Tomorrow). It’s a shame to see him obliterated by an airborne chunk of flaming National Park as he is the only vaguely likeable character in the bum-battering near-three hours of film.

After the initial assault on your senses, which even by my CGI hating standards was impressive, you are left to drift into a narcoleptic state of uneasiness. This isn’t because there is any type of nervousness on the audience’s part, it’s because in the lulls between mega-blasts you have to listen to the film’s dialogue, which clunks along like Ringo Starr reading Thomas the Tank Engine on smack.

It begs the question, how can such ridiculously stereotyped characters still exist in these movies? They’re not even amusing. Having already off’d a Predator and been consistently ‘too old for this shit’, Glover plays the President Thomas Wilson. A man both self absorbed and utterly devoid of merit that he decides to wander the streets of America with other fodder and make his daughter an orphan rather than be useful on the ark.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the small, polite mannered Indian scientist who accepts his fate with a sense of wobbly-headed inevitability and the Chinese workers that only really want to make their grandparents proud. ‘Some rich Arabs’, which the camera unabashedly points at when Newton’s character suggests that it was capital rather than genes that earns you a place on the ark. (To which I thought, alright love, you’re the President’s daughter, not the next cure for cancer).

Cusack’s character isn’t actually that typical of the ex-family man, pining for his wife and children while struggling to show he can be of some use; he’s just the worst parent ever. He consistently places his children in the most possible danger that they could be in, which, taking into consideration it is the End of Days, is a considerable amount.

The Russian characters are beyond satire. The big fat businessman, his two fat twins – even more selfish and disgusting than their father and finally the blonde airhead the same age as the kids, all with accents so appalling it’s embarrassing – until, that is, you hear the voice of their outrageously good looking pilot. I honestly do not think there has been a worse accent in the history of cinema.

The cast, on paper, shouldn’t be that bad. But all in all, the best bit of acting in the entire picture is by a chicken. Flawless comedy timing. (Please note, the film is not worth going to see purely to understand this reference.)

Emmerich barely spares a thought for the middle class London dwellers that have seen their plans of hiring out their maisonettes for the month of the Olympics and having a gangbang to celebrate. Indeed, London’s bid for the Olympics turned out to be a bit of a waste of time and money. Emmerich seemed to think London in general was a waste of time and money, using what looked pretty much exactly like stock footage of the 90’s poll tax riots for the chaos that was meant to be occurring over here.

It is actually remarkable how much hatred it is possible to feel for these characters when they are such hollow shells. Dialogue along the lines of ‘What’s the point in saving humanity if the first thing we do is inhumane?’ go a long way to explain it though. The fact that, oh yeah – spoiler alert, as if you wouldn’t have fucking guessed it – Cusack essentially dispatches his rival and then gets back with his wife is so trite I threw up an interesting mix of Fanta and Malteser mush in my mouth. It was the first time in over two hours I had felt an emotion other than despair.

If you like watching planes taking off inches in front of explosions then this is the film for you, it happens every twelve minutes or so.

158 minutes without a moment’s tension. It’s true, WE WERE WARNED, why on Earth didn't I listen?

2/10: A fucking awful film.

Friday, 20 November 2009


I hate international breaks.

It means that I’m forced to thrash about under the blanket of the Football Supporters Moral Code. For instance, as an Englishman, I should want England to win, when in fact I get the same sick feeling in my stomach every time I watch them play outside of a major tournament.

Inexplicably, I actually want them to lose, and horribly, possibly just so it might possibly gag the people that are already saying that they will win the World Cup next year.

It’s not that I don’t want England to be successful; it’s just that I hate myself for wanting it. It puts me in the same group of people that extol Lampard as a ‘World Class’ midfielder - Chelsea fans. And that is one assemblage that no self-respecting Englishman wants to be lumped in with.

This is my issue with international football; it means that people – or, more bluntly, the media – force the idea that because a player is English he is innately up there with the best of them. This imply isn’t the case, he’s just ‘up there’ above the other English players that don’t make the team because their ‘up there’ isn’t very ‘up’ or ‘there’ at all.

Watching England play against Brazil on Saturday afternoon was at once heartening and demoralising at the same time, a bit like having porridge with lots of sugar but skimmed milk.

England, as it was massively stressed before, during and now after the game, were significantly short of ‘first choice’ players. The result – a one-nil loss - could therefore be seen as reasonably optimistic, as Brazil is ‘The Best Team in the World™’ and we only lost ‘a bit’.

First off, the positive. The game showed that despite the lack of first choice players available, England were reasonably organised in defence, something that can be put down to Capello’s coaching in the last year or so as much as anything else.

However the fact remains that Brazil completely dominated the style and tempo of the game, even when England had possession. Andy ‘State the Bleeding Obvious’ Townsend rained knowledge down upon us concerning the tactic of closing down in numbers ‘in this sort of heat’ and wildly applauded the English midfield for doing so.

The fact of the matter is that nothing that could be called ‘pressure’ was ever put on the Brazil midfield, allowing Kaka, amongst others, to stroll back into the middle four, pick the ball up and swipe it left and right without any danger of being caught.

It was Kaka’s presence that also foreshadows England’s other great problem. England lacks any semblance of creativity. England’s sole strategy is flawed. The defence pings – actually, that sounds a bit too useful – slogs a long hopeful ball up to the front man’s left armpit, praying that somehow he’ll bring it under control and hold onto it, then lay the perfect ball down at – probably – Rooney’s right foot to blast into the top corner. It’s all a bit too fantasy football.

Rooney was handed the captaincy on Saturday, a fact that seemed to rouse him for about the first ten minutes before he continued his run of losing the ball too easily and then getting fed up. Gone are the days that he would lose the ball and then chase it down like a rabid pit-bull with a wasps nest in its anus. Now he prefers languishing on his knees and slamming his hands on the turf like a spoilt child that has been refused extra custard.

Worryingly it was England’s general disinterest in the physical side of the game, coupled with a lack of ingenuity meant that time and again Brazil would outfight, out-muscle and outrun England, with no real exception.

With a midfield of Lampard and Gerrard, improvement should be possible, but not definite. All we can count on is Lampard taking ten pot-shots a match and hoping that one of them will deflect in off Gerrard’s left earlobe when they inevitably get in each other’s way.

The inclusion of the long missed Joe Cole will bring new life into the mix, but will he be fit? Has he ever been fit? At the last World Cup Cole was one of a handful of players that looked as though he would be able to produce something special when he had the ball at his feet. He is certainly one of about three that inspires the same intake of breath from the crowd as players such as Kaka do.

Will Capello start taking chances on players of Joe Cole’s ilk? I, completely unabashedly, put forward fast-tracking Jack Wilshire into the squad. He’ll be eleven by the time the tournament kicks off, but as the old adage goes, if he’s good enough he’s got grass on the wicket. Or something like that.

As it stands England have now played four of the best teams in the world under Capello, and been victorious in one of them. Spain thoroughly dismantled them, Brazil never looked troubled and France pretty much walked the distance to their victory. This does not spell too cheery a read for the same people that believe by some magical happenstance England will gloriously sweep to victory next summer.

In England’s defence, and to cover my back, the results that really matter have gone well. Capello’s record in qualifiers was fantastic, and I’m more than happy that we’ve qualified for a World Cup without having to rely on anyone else. It is not emphatically all doom and gloom. It’s just gloom.

This match was important. It showed that the England team is a long way off being ‘World Class’. It also showed how incredibly dull it is watching them play.

Tellingly, it was Brazil’s coach Dunga that summed up what they need to do to improve on the world stage, namely ‘…learn how to dribble.’


Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Review: Harry Brown

In director Daniel Barber’s big screen debut, Sir Michael Caine plays ageing vigilante Harry Brown, a man who decides to face up to the street thuggery that runs unchecked on the estate where he lives.

The action begins pre-credits with a stark and disturbing scene of rampaging youths on a motorcycle performing mindless acts of violence, filmed by themselves on a camera phone. The image appears almost like a first-person shoot-em-up with a pistol projected away from the camera. The victim of the crime is a wholly innocent and indefensible mother pushing her baby’s pram. The noise of the gun is incredibly loud, and is only surpassed in shock factor by the end of the scene. The photography throughout is handled with aplomb by Martin Ruhe, incorporating handheld shots with great effect.

The next scene sees Caine, asleep and alone in his bed in his run-down flat. He looks every inch the old man that he now is in real life, testament to a performance that refuses to suffer from an ounce of vanity. His face is wrinkled, his hands large and mottled and his voice graver than usual. We observe the minutiae of his impoverished life as an old man alone in his council flat, the cold toast, the hot tea, the dripping tap monotonous as his subsistence.

For me, this introduction to our anti-hero is almost as shocking as the brutality of the opening scene itself. We simply have not seen Caine portraying such a fragile looking character before. Caine looks old. Everything about him appears frail, in direct contrast to the stoic, stiff upper-lipped gentleman that he has played in recent years.

Once a Marine serving in Northern Ireland, Harry now spends his days visiting his ailing wife in hospital, playing chess with his old mate Len (played sympathetically by David Bradley) in the local pub and visiting the grave of his late daughter. Harry refuses to talk about his time in the service, it all being ‘a long time ago, a lifetime ago’, and is irritated when Len asks if he ever ‘killed anyone’. His answer hides the truth, but reveals what is most important to him. He knew he had to give up that life, and all thought of it, when he met and married his beloved wife Cathy.

It is in this same scene that the severity of the problems on the estate that Harry and Len live is exemplified when a drug deal is made quite openly in the pub in front of the landlord. Harry and Len go to the gents before leaving and Len reveals that he is ‘Scared… all the time’ of the youths that bully him on the estate. When Len reveals to Harry that he plans to strike back against the youths that torment him daily and shows him the long bayonet blade that used to belong to his father, Harry begs him to go to the police, but a traumatised Len shouts back as he leaves in anger that he already has.

This short scene decries one of the films biggest problems – the police are consistently portrayed as uncaring and snotty (Chris Wilson as Assistant Chief Constable Ladlow), caring but completely toothless (see Emily Mortimer as Sergeant Frampton) or utterly moronic (Iain Glen as Officer Childs). This lack of substance may be down to the writing courtesy of screenwriter Gary Young, rather than the acting; however it does impact quite profoundly on the film. It could also be argued that with a police force that seemed anymore involved in the action on the estate then the whole premise of ‘One man will take a stand’, as the tagline announces, would be groundless.

After Len is killed mercilessly by the young thugs he approaches in an underpass, Caine literally digs out his box of memories of his other life in the marines and decides, after the police prove impotent, to take on the gang himself and seek revenge for the death of his last friend in the world. The change from old codger to assassin is rather immediate and somewhat implausible, which could lead less sympathetic audiences to further question the film’s awkward claims of verisimilitude.

This leads to my only other major gripe about the picture. The question of how the audience can side with the vigilante, as the law is quite clearly not on Harry Brown’s side. This could have been answered quite easily and convincingly if the people that he is battling against are shown as purely malevolent; however the youth’s backgrounds aren’t quite fleshed out enough. It is testament to the acting, particularly of Ben Drew (aka rapper Plan B) who plays a character so repugnant I wondered how much of it was acting, of the young performers that their characters are memorable, rather than just cannon fodder for the aged Brown.

There a multiple standout scenes in the film, most notably when Caine’s character - after noting from his new base of operations in Len’s abandoned and burnt out flat, that the youths all carry firearms - follows one of the drug dealers back to his hideout in order to buy a gun. An on form Sean Harris as the repulsive underworld merchant Stretch holds the screen incredibly well in probably the best scene of the film, pitting Caine’s fragility against Harris’ drug riddled wickedness in a sequence that holds true tension from beginning to end.

Critics have inevitably, and rather lazily, already dubbed Harry Brown as a British Gran Torino, but it is the combined power of high-quality cinematography, solid direction from Barber and impressive performances that give this British film an identity all of its own.

The film, for me at least, has more in common with Taxi Driver than the recent Eastwood outing of Gran Torino. The soundtrack is certainly reminiscent, as is the stark colour scheme and design employed by Kave Quinn. It’s obviously not just me who thought so, as word has it that when asked at MovieCon if he had copied aspects of Scorcese’s classic, Barber answered, ‘Of course, but if you’re going to nick stuff it might as well be from the best!’

Whether Harry Brown is realistic or fantastic (in the ‘Broken Britain’ vein that the Mail etc profusely proffer) is up for debate. Certainly the rise in youth crime, and especially violent and drug related crime inclusive of guns and knives will strike a resonant beat through most British audiences. The estate scenes certainly do not seem unfamiliar and the general layer of grime that coats the mise-en-scene would not be a giant leap to conceive for most viewers, especially those dwelling in cities.

Obviously the most contentious element will be could a 76 year old ex-marine really be up to the ‘job’ of being the one-man-army against gun-toting youths and manic drug dealers? To my mind, Caine convinces.

The idea that Harry Brown will be able to convince audiences on an international stage is perhaps less believable, although Caine’s name on the bill will draw enough ticket buyers to put this to the litmus test. The posters and stills from the film, probably deliberately, have made it seem like a mixture of Get Carter and something along the lines of Kidulthood. Plus the footage used in the trailer possibly makes the film seem a lot more action-orientated than it should, as to begin with the film burns slowly; it’s a good half hour before Caine goes apoplectic and it would do the subtleties of Caine’s performance an injustice.

Indeed. I don’t think that Harry Brown will go down in the annals as another Taxi Driver, but I do think that it is a well made film with many exceptional performances, from both young and old. Barber has made a big leap from music video territory to feature film and I believe his first effort is impressive. Perhaps the most laudable point is his treatment of violence in the film; it is neither glamourised nor stylised, but necessary.

In conclusion Harry Brown might not be the most realistic of vigilante films, or any kind of film for that matter, but as British films go I’d rather see Michael Caine panting about with a bag of guns than Hugh Grant guffawing his way through two hours of tosh or a load of millionaire kids tarting about with chopsticks.

Harry Brown, release date 13th November 2009, Lionsgate
One of the better British films of recent years, entertaining and thought provoking, whether you like it or not.