Ah, the familiar stench of a vigilante movie. After Kevin Bacon tried his luck last month in the disastrous Death Sentence, Jodie Foster, an actress who ought to know better, adds weight to a sub-genre made popular in the iconic Death Wish. Its a tried and tested formula and one may argue that its been tried and tested a few too many times but The Brave One arrives with one ace up its sleeve: this time itís a woman.
Erica Bain (Jodie Foster) is a New York DJ in love with her city. The only thing she loves more is her fiancť David (Naveen Andrews). But walking through Central Park one night, the two find themselves at the mercy of thugs, who leave David dead and Erica seriously wounded. No longer feeling safe in her own city and suffering insurmountable grief, Erica is a changed woman. She soon discovers a way to cope with her loss and her fear. Fighting violence with violence
The Brave One is an uneasy film and not in the way that the filmmakers would like it to be. Coming from acclaimed Irish director Neil Jordan (The Crying Game) the film is never quite sure how it wants to be perceived. Is it an arty drama examining the redemptive power of violence? Or is it a brutal but crowd-pleasing studio thriller? Needless to say, it convinces as neither.
First off, weíre presented with a hugely inaccurate picture of New York. In real-life itís the safest big city in the world. In The Brave One itís Gotham-lite, violent crime on every street corner. Thatís how computer games are made, not good movies, and itís quickly quite preposterous.
Take Ericaís descent into crime: mere days after waking up post-accident she turns from victim to vigilante and in an awesomely dumb scene buys a gun from a back-alley merchant. Two scenes on at the local corner shop, a man rushes in and shoots the woman on the checkout, providing Ericaís first kill. Two scenes later and Erica is threatened with rape on an empty train. More carnage. Itís quick, convenient, and carries no emotional weight at all.
More interesting than viewing The Brave One as an urban thriller is seeing it as a dysfunctional superhero movie. Ericaís arc is pure Batman. Thereís even the cop, excellently played by Terrance Howard, who suspects she may be the vigilante but has conflicted feelings towards bringing her in. But sadly, The Brave One takes itself far too seriously to be fully enjoyed in such a manner.
It seems a little redundant to credit Jodie Fosterís performance as strong. Does she ever play anything else? In 99% of her output sheís a strong-willed woman who gets stronger by the end of the movie. Although The Brave One is a lot darker than her recent thrillers, it still sticks close to the stereotype. Like the film itself, her acting is so slick and expected that it merits little more than a shrug of the shoulder. Neil Jordan is clearly relishing a hefty paycheque for selling his soul to the man and has given the film a sickeningly polished feel, at odds with the supposedly gritty atmosphere that the story is trying to portray.
The Brave One appears to take no particular moral stance when it comes to judging the rights and wrongs of Ericaís actions but the title of the movie, together with a number of tidy one-liners delivered Arnie-style, suggest that a little whooping and hollering wouldnít go amiss as Erica shoots up New York. Other than that startling first attack however, the violence barely registers. The finale is a mess, alternating from unbelievable character shifts to cloying sentimentality and leaves the film as a confusing but intriguing disappointment.