The Brave One ***1/2
Directed by Neil Jordan
Written by Roderick Taylor and Bruce A. Taylor
Jodie Foster as Erica Bain
Terrence Howard as Detective Mercer
Nicky Katt as Detective Vitale
Naveen Andrews as David Kirmani
Mary Steenburgen as Carol
119 Minutes(Rated R for strong violence, language and some sexuality. )
Two weeks ago we have the Kevin Bacon film "Death Sentence" come out, which was about a man that decided to get brutal revenge on the group of killers that murdered certain members of his family. Now this weekend we have "The Brave One," about a woman that decides to get brutal revenge on bad people after the murder of her future husband. Now "The Brave One" is really nothing more than a genre/vigilante picture, but there has to be a reason why 'Death Sentence" was released at the deathly bad weekend of Ausust 31st, while "The Brave One" got a release at the kick off of Oscar season. There is a simple answer. Because although the screenplay to "The Brave One" is quite the same old revenge genre story, it goes a step above the tired old vigilante cliches, and is turned into something quite powerful-thanks to the help of Jodie Foster, Terrance Howard, and director Neil Jordan, who transcend this from something old to something new.
Jodie Foster is an early contender for Best Actress-although I'm sure that will change-as Erica Bain, a rather popular radio personality who talks about the safe New York, and how it is a dying city. She is getting married to David, a nurse/training to be doctor, and while walking in Central Park with their dog Curtis, they are both beaten up badly by a few hoodlums, and David is killed. Erica wakes up a few weeks later from a coma, and she becomes terrified to leave her house. She becomes equipped with a gun, and after finally leaving her home, she becomes a part of a grocery store robbery where she ends up killing a man. She is struck by what a different person she feels like after doing it, and somehow becomes an anonymous vigilante killer-killing only the real scum of the city-but is what she doing right because she is killing bad people, or is she just as bad as them? On the side is Detective Mercer, who Erica begins to befriend, but he begins to connect clues together to this killer that is sparking so much controversy.
A few points on what makes the film a bit more special than your typical revenge thriller. I have already mentioned the acting, which I'll mention again. Foster is great here-right on target. She doesn't make many films. I think her last was "Flightplan' from 2005-a mediocre thriller, but she was quite good in it. Here she is able to express more emotion-ranging from happy to terrified to catatonic to angry, and then going around in all different directions again. Howard is doing something more minor than Foster, and isn't as powerful a character study, but their scenes together are dynamite. And having Jordan behind the camera makes it a bit special. He really knows how to depict his characters-Foster is often shown with more gritty angles, while Howard's are a bit more stable at times. This is certainly a much more serious affair than Jordan's last film "Breakfast on Pluto," but he goes from genre to genre very well. In addition this also managed to avoid a few certain plot points that I thought it would. For example, in a lesser film, there would have been some kind of love affair between Foster and Howard-at times this film almost hinted at it, but then avoided it completely, thankfully.
My only real quip about the movie is that parts of it seemed a bit unrealistic. I guess it's hard to accept at times that so much could happen to Foster's character. She has her life in danger, involuntarily, at least four times in the film before she begins to just go out to take matters into her own hands. And these four things happen in such a short span of time that it almost seemed like a plot problem. And it also made me wonder why she would continue going out in such a desolate locations all the time. A minor problem really, but it does make you question the authenticity of the plot and characters. "The Brave One" is quite a powerful film, and at times difficult to watch-especially in the first five minutes or so. Foster is worth the trip alone, and Howard and Jordan make the experience even better.