Who's In It: Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer
The Basics: A widowed pensioner living in an almost post-apocalyptically broken-down London council estate teeming with teenage crime and violence sits by helplessly as young thugs murder his only remaining old guy pal. Left with no one to challenge him in chess, stymied by police indifference and grieving the glory days of his World War II heroism, he turns to a new friend: a big bag of guns that he uses to pick off delinquent after delinquent. It's sort of like if Dirty Harry stopped every afternoon for PG Tips and some Hobnobs.
What's The Deal: Exploitation Cinema has never enjoyed much respect from people who aren't Quentin Tarantino. And so when somebody decides to make a movie about brutal killing and it's not considered part of the horror genre, they usually have to fancy it up and pretend that it's "social commentary" about how it's so bad out there "in these times." But all it really is is an excuse to watch people get shot in the face. Here you get a few moments of gritty gutter life and a moment or two of "I blame society" handwringing about poverty and aging and whatnot, but nothing really matters until the firepower goes blammo.
The Thing That Might Trick You Into Thinking This Movie Is Meaningful: That would be Michael Caine. He's as stately and wounded and mournful and quiet as you want a dignified old sad guy to be. That is, until he opens up a can of whup-ass and gets all, "Don't start none, won't be none" with the the crime-teens. His performance never becomes a parody of those Death Wish movies, even as the film itself descends into a big gun measuring contest. It's not a film-saving effort but he tries. And if you just decide all you care about is the violence anyway (shame on you, by the way, according to the movie) then you'll have a pretty good time.
Featuring The Wasted Talents Of: Emily Mortimer, who makes that Concern Face really well, but that's all she's allowed to do. She has nothing to say for most of the movie beyond, "I think the old guy did it" every time someone wonders why all the thugs are being murdered one by one. It's a bummer to see her skills go unused. It made me wish I watching her as the "avian bone syndrome" lady on 30 Rock instead.
Would You Like To See A Movie About Older People Coping With Harsh Realities, Only One That's Actually Good? Check out the devastating Alzheimer's drama Away From Her starring Julie Christie. There are no guns, and I realize that that's a strike against it. But at least doesn't sucker you into thinking it's something it's not.