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The Brave One

Even the masterful Jodie Foster can't manage to raise this sluggish vigilante yarn above other movies of its ilk.


The Brave One, as most vigilante movies do, reaches into our underbellies and asks the question: How far would you go to right a wrong done horribly to you? In the case of New York radio host Erica Bain (Foster), that question comes to a head when she and her fiancé, David (Naveen Andrews), are viciously attacked by a gang of thugs, leaving David dead and Erica barely alive. She heals physically but realizes the city she once adored has now turned into a haven of fear. Unable to move past the tragedy, Erica buys a gun and begins prowling the city streets at night to track down the men she holds responsible. Putting herself in dangerous situations, she is soon taking on the bad guys in her own way, catching the public's attention with her anonymous exploits. Although a dogged NYPD detective (Terrence Howard) is soon hot on her trail, The Brave One mostly focuses on Erica's angst over what she's done and who she's becoming. But for a purported thriller, watching an intellectual woman wrestle with demons just isn't all that exciting.


Still, watching Jodie Foster wrestle demons is at least a study in acting brilliance. She seems to have perfected the ordinary-woman-turned-badass routine, adding little nuances as she goes along. In her last two women-in-peril films, Panic Room and Flightplan, it was the mother bear coming out. In Brave One, it's her inner killer—and the persona is a fairly scary one. Foster is simply incapable of turning in a bad performance, and The Brave One is lucky to have her. Same goes for Howard, as the kindly detective who vaguely suspects Erica might be his vigilante, while befriending her at the same time. Their scenes together are the film's most compelling--but unfortunately, they are not enough of them. And in a memorable supporting turn, Nicky Katt (Grindhouse), as Howard's snarky partner, provides some well-earned laughs in this otherwise serious film. In fact, his character pretty much sums things up when he says, "Women kill their kids, husbands, sh*t they love. They don't do this."


Revenge movies are certainly getting their due of late, with The Brave One and the recently released Death Sentence, starring Kevin Bacon. Of course, the mother of all revenge movies is still Charles Bronson's Death Wish, which The Brave One emulates in many ways, especially with the whole vigilante theme. In the hands of director Neil Jordan, however, things move a little differently than they did in that Bronson flick. Jordan, who is usually pretty good at crafting affecting crime thrillers (his best is still The Crying Game), says this instead: Watching someone "descend into a morally questionable area after being wronged is both horrifying and fascinating at the same time." Yes, that's true, but you might not expect such an existential film when this much violence is involved. The Brave One starts out with a bang but then slows down to a snail's pace the more Erica agonizes over her deeds. Even the shots go slo-mo every time Erica reaches into her oversized bag, pulls out the gun and shoots the perps dead. Pacing, Neil, it's all about pacing.

Bottom Line rated this film 2 stars.