Harry Brown: He’s no spring chicken.
Harry Brown is an old man. He’s not an older man. He’s an old man. He’s not some anime-style ninja old man; he’s just a regular old man with asthma and a heart condition. At one point he passes out and nearly dies from the stress on his body. He can’t pick up heavy objects. He can’t wrangle thugs with an expert twist of his wrist. And when something hits him … he goes right down. Right. Down.
But he wasn’t always an old man. He was once a young man, a Marine in the war, trained to kill people. He saw darkness all around him and felt it inside him, but when he came back from the war and started a new life with his wife, he (as he explains to his friend) “knew that all that stuff had to be locked away.” When his friend is killed by the neighbourhood gang of thugs, he walks into his bedroom and pulls out the trunk from his younger days – the one with all that stuff locked away – and he taps into that person he used to be. He knows what he has to do, and he’s willing to do it, which makes him the bravest – and strongest – man in the neighbourhood.
He’s an old man, but he was once a young man. He’s a good man, but he once did a great many wretched things – perhaps they were done in the service of his country, but they were wretched things nonetheless. Everything he does in the film, he does for the sake of decent people, but the things he does are not … kind. Like many film-heroes, he fights evil with the same darkness the bad guys employ, and it is only the intention of the hero that tips the scales in good’s favour. Harry’s loving heart gives him the will to fight evil, but it’s the darkness in him that gives him the strength.
That darkness is what the thugs underestimate when they see this old man with the heart condition and the asthma; that’s what they don’t consider when they kill Harry’s friend. That’s what they don’t see coming, right up until the very end when Harry knocks them down. Right. Down.