The Brave One Review
Jodie Foster must like being scared and terrified if her recent lead roles are anything to go by. In Panic Room she was made a prisoner in her own home, in Flightplan she was a mother questioning her own sanity 30,000ft up in the air and now in The Brave One it’s a whole city that is giving her cause for concern. She plays Erica Bain, the host of a radio talk show so pretentious that even Radio 4 would balk at broadcasting it, who is happily engaged to Naveen Andrews and looking forward to a traditional wedding. She is successful, attractive, strong and in control. The now familiar Foster screen role, a strong woman who will have her strength tested to the limits. While out walking their dog in Central Park one night (surely not the best of ideas) they are attacked by a street gang who knock her unconscious and batter her fiancée to death with a lead pipe. It’s a fantastically shot sequence using skewed camera angles, a camcorder and horrific POV shots that put the audience right in the thick of the attack.
After a spell in hospital Erica goes home to find that she can barely face the outside world and becomes a recluse, too afraid to even walk out of her front door. Up to this point we are watching a well made, well acted drama which looks as though it is on its way to making some serious points about the effects of violence and how ordinary people cope when their well planned lives are torn apart. Unfortunately Neil Jordan takes on an altogether less interesting journey.
When she finally leaves her apartment she pays the police a visit to see how her case is coming along but, obviously a bit tetchy after her ordeal, walks out when she is made to wait for ten minutes and goes straight to the nearest gun shop. When she is told she can’t get a gun without a licence she buys one from a man on the street and we are all set for a female Death Wish. Suddenly everywhere she goes violence is rife. In a corner shop buying a pint of milk she ends up blowing a scumbag away. On a tube train she is threatened with a knife by two youths and ends up doing what a woman has to do. A man abusing a prostitute in a parked car makes the mistake of inviting Erica to join them and doesn’t live to regret it. New York council must be fuming with this representation of their newly cleaned up city.
Running parallel with this is the storyline involving Terrence Howard, a divorced city cop who is trying to put a high rolling drug and people smuggler behind bars but finds that bureaucracy and red tape is keeping the scumbag on the streets. After a highly improbable meeting between the two leads the rest of the plot unravels with mind numbing predictability. Their friendship and scenes together seem forced and unnatural and you can’t help wondering why the scriptwriters ever thought there was any need for them to meet in the first place.
For someone who is obviously supposed to be an intelligent woman Erica makes a daft decision at almost every turn, and you realise that without them the story would grind to a halt. She becomes the Terminator, able to overpower a man twice her size and even strong enough to throw one off the top of a building. All this just to get us to an ending that is as laughable as it is unbelievable, as Howard’s character has a change of morals that makes a mockery of all his previous actions and sends a message to audiences that you would hope wasn’t the film maker's intention.
This is pulp fiction masquerading as high art and it can’t pull it off. The two leads put in good, if somewhat overwrought, performances but all supporting characters are sidelined after the first twenty minutes, some never to be seen or heard of again. Neil Jordan gives the film an expensive gloss with some great set ups, unusual camera angles and a few subtle set pieces but nothing can hide that what we have here is, for all its Taxi Driver aspirations, an updated Death Wish. The recent film Death Sentence dealt with much the same subject matter but had the decency to show the real repercussions of vigilantism, while The Brave One gives the subject an almost romantic allure. A better title might have been The Stupid One.