Review: The Brave One
PLOT: While Erica Bain and her fiancé, David Kirmani are walking their dog, they are attacked by a group of thugs who kill David and leave her close to it. As she heals, she finds the city she once loved to be a horrifying place which she fears. The streets and the subways all seem like impending doom until she gets a gun for protection. She is then thrust into a situation where she must use the gun and finds a sense of power. She soon realizes that she is capable of killing those that are a threat to her or others. A vigilante is born.
Jodie Foster knows how to play a character like Erica Bain. Someone victimized who learns to fight back on some level and battle her own personal demons. In fact, the one thing that makes THE BRAVE ONE stand is her performance. At once vulnerable and frightened and later on, fierce and angry. She makes Erica a very real character who learns to go to hell and back. But this is unlike any of her earlier strong ladies, because even Clarice Sterling didnt go out of her way to shoot somebody. Yet Erica becomes empowered by the kill and Ms. Foster makes it work.
Sadly, what didnt work is the film overall. We are introduced to Erica Bain, an on-air radio personality who shares stories about New York with her listeners. She loves her town and all its beauty, the good and bad, and everything in between. Her life is charmed, as she is engaged to wed to her boyfriend David Kirmani, a poor choice of casting with Naveen Andrews feeling a bit too Harlequin Romance in the role. He wants a quick wedding and she wants to wait, but they are in love and happy. Until one night, when they walk their dog to an obviously unsafe area, they find themselves in the midst of a gang of thugs. Both are viciously attacked and only she recovers. She is stunned and heartbroken, left with only memories of David (his lovemaking and his guitar, kind of like a Carpenters song), and an unnerving fear that she is not safe anymore.
After the attack, she can barely step outside her door without a claustrophobic feeling of terror. And when she finally arrives back to work, her stories change as does her outlook on the city she once loved. The feeling of agony and fear overcome her and lead to a single purchase that will change her life a gun. For safety or for protection, she carries it with her and soon finds herself in a predicament where she must use it. After one kill, she begins seemingly to put herself in a position where she needs to protect herself and/or others. Her life rapidly changes, meanwhile stories are all over the news of a vigilante killer loose in New York.
This is powerful stuff, and if the focus had remained on Erica, I feel that it would have been a more powerful movie. But in grand Hollywood tradition, they invite a slight love interest, Terrence Howard as NYPD detective Sean Mercer. While he hunts down the killer, the two end up meeting and developing a deep friendship together. And that is where the problem for me lies. The fact that they just always seem to end up in the same place seemed contrived and unnecessary. And one moment in particular seemed to be a unbelievable turn of events purely to take the story in a certain direction. It revolves around Detective Mercers ability to remember the sound of an elevator door opening. Sure because all elevators sound completely different, right? Who doesnt remember the sound of an elevator they hear over a cell phone?
There are many powerful moments and I found myself rooting for Erica. But in the final frame, the more ludicrous the story seemed. In the end, the film lost most of its credibility for me. It was a shallow and safe way to end her story. And thats the problem, this was her story and it should have remained her story. As she finds herself in DEATH WISH territory, I was fully drawn to her actions, if not accepting of them. In the case of the hunted becoming the hunter, I was truly enthralled. But as the investigation grew closer and closer, I didnt care, it was much too obvious and coincidental, purely to move the film forward. If Neil Jordan had remained with Erica, and had kept the investigation as a small sub-plot, and given the final frames more a more plausible feel, this could have been a great film.
It surprised me to see Neil Jordan tell this story is such a simple way. He is a fascinating director yet seemed to take it easy with this one. A few inspired moments surrounded the story, especially the attack on Erica and the aftermath. When she tries to leave the comfort of her own home it was very intense, in fact, much of the direction when it surrounded Erica and her decent was very impressive. Not to say that the rest of it wasnt well directed, but much of the film felt a bit safe for Neil. I did like how he handled the violence and bloodshed and there are a few moments of suspense that really work. But what could have been a bold look at the power of revenge felt a bit processed and weak.
My rating 5/10 -- JimmyO
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