I'm beginning to worry about American audiences. Or rather, I'm beginning to worry more about American audiences, and Harry Brown is a good reason why. Why is that, you ask? Because we're starting to treat violence as a sport that's meant to be enjoyed and cheered along. It's not Michael Caine's fault, and I'd like to think that if you ask him, he'd say the same thing. Which isn't to say that he doesn't kick a lot of ass in this film. He does, and at 77 years old, he still looks impressive doing it. More than some of the current generation of young action wannabes.
But the problem isn't Caine. Either we've become so desensitized to onscreen death that it's no longer shocking, or we want characters to have revenge so badly that when it actually happens, we clap with delight. That's what happened in a full-house screening of Harry Brown at SXSW when audience members erupted into applause as Caine plunges a knife into the chest of a junkie, and they probably missed the shocked look on Caine's face during that scene: he appears to be just as surprised as the junkie he's stabbing.