The Brave One
Review by Jack Foley
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: I Walk The City – Featurette (22-Minutes); Additional Scenes (8-Minutes).
NEIL Jordan’s provocative thriller The Brave One would have audiences believe it’s a Taxi Driver for the here and now but, in truth, it struggles to escape comparisons with the far less impressive Death Wish series.
Jodie Foster gives a typically excellent performance in the lead role and she’s matched blow for blow by Terrence Howard. But every time you’re prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt for some of its more unlikely indulgences, the film goes and does something else stupid and then caps it off with an utterly ridiculous ending.
Foster stars as New York radio host Erica Bain whose happy existence is ruthlessly shattered when she and her fiancee (Naveen Andrews) are attacked in Central Park. She barely survives, he does not, and Erica is then left to piece together the fragments of her life alone.
Buying a gun for protection, she begins to search for her attackers and winds up dealing with random criminals along the way, gradually losing sight of the person she once was.
But as she struggles to make sense of her new identity she finds herself drawn to a sensitive police officer (Howard’s Detective Mercer), who has begun to investigate an apparently related series of vigilante slayings while keeping a lid on his own personal turmoil.
For the most part, The Brave One functions as a thought-provoking character study that examines fear and crime from two very different perspectives.
Foster lays herself bare as Erica, torn between what’s right and her vengeful desires, while struggling to come to terms with a city that’s seemingly turned against her.
But Howard is just as compelling as the detective on her trail, forging a believable friendship with Erica and exploring his own doubts and fears in sensitive fashion, while injecting some much-needed humour in his banter with police partner, Detective Vitale (nicely played by Nicky Katt).
But for all its strengths and power to provoke debate, the film is eventually undone by some curious decisions by director Jordan.
Early on, his decision to contrast scenes of a battered Foster being treated in the ER with those of her making love feel voyeuristic and unnecessary – but you’re willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Likewise, with a scene involving Foster on the subway and two stereotypical black thugs.
But as the contrivances pile up, the patience gets tested and Jordan eventually runs out of favours.
The ending, in particular, feels like it’s pandering to the mainstream and totally undermines any of the good work that has come before. It’s a crushing disappointment that flies in the face of what Jordan was potentially trying to achieve.
And it confirms that for all its noble intentions and nods to the status of Scorsese, it really is a bargain-basement vigilante movie that offers a feminist take on Death Wish. Both Foster and Howard deserved much, much better.
Running time: 2hrs 2mins
UK DVD Release Date: February 11, 2008