Maybe because sheâ€™s been around for so long we tend to take Jodie Foster for granted and forget just how terrific an actress she is. I remember first seeing her in the psychological thriller â€œThe Little Girl Who Lives Down The Laneâ€ way the hell back in 1975. And in recent years Iâ€™ve tremendously enjoyed her in â€œMaverickâ€ "Contact" â€œAnna And The Kingâ€ â€œFlightplanâ€ â€œInside Manâ€ and of course, â€œThe Silence of The Lambsâ€. Sheâ€™s one of the few child actresses who successfully made the transition to adult stardom. She enjoys great critical and financial acclaim and itâ€™s sort of amusing to me when I read professional critic reviews of movies sheâ€™s done such as â€œFlightplanâ€ â€œPanic Roomâ€ and â€œSilence Of The Lambsâ€ all of which are actually Grade B potboilers in art house movie drag as is her latest: THE BRAVE ONE.
Erica Bain (Jodie Foster) has a life that appears to be perfect. Sheâ€™s the host of a highly popular radio talk show and sheâ€™s engaged to be married to a drop-dead handsome doctor (Naveen Andrews). That life comes to a tragic and brutal end one night. While walking their dog, Erica and her boyfriend are attacked in Central Park. Erica is beaten so badly that sheâ€™s in a coma for three weeks while her boyfriend dies on the operating table. Erica recovers and tries to put her life back together. But she knows sheâ€™s not the same person she was before that night. In a very real sense she died as well and she struggles to deal with her traumatized emotions and find a way to re-integrate her shattered psyche.
Erica grows increasingly frustrated with the lack of police progress in finding her boyfriendâ€™s killers and tries to buy a gun. Driven into a fit of anger because she refuses to wait the required 30 days, she purchases one illegally and goes out at night, deliberately setting herself up as a victim and before you can say â€˜Charles Bronsonâ€™ New Yorkâ€™s crime rate drops sharply as thereâ€™s dead bodies of would be rapists, stick-up guys and muggers littering the streets.
Complicating the situation even more is Ericaâ€™s relationship with Detective Mercer (Terrence Howard) who is assigned to investigate the vigilante slayings. At first, Erica manipulates Mercer because heâ€™s a fan of her show and she plays upon that to get close to him and find out how far along he is in his investigation. But as they grow closer and more trusting, Erica discovers a true respect and even admiration for both the cop and the man. At the same time, small things Mercer notices start to add up and he starts to have a horrible suspicion that his newfound friend may be the vigilante killer. But Erica canâ€™t stop her nightly activities, especially when due to a really bizarre twist, she discovers the identity of one of the men who killed her boyfriend and if she can find one then she can damn well can find the othersâ€¦
When I saw the previews of this movie a month or so ago I was convinced this was a remake of the classic 1974 â€œDeath Wishâ€ starring Charles Bronson and directed by Michael Winner. Itâ€™s a film that probably still is the definitive thriller advocating vigilantism as a legitimate response to the problem of urban crime. And after seeing THE BRAVE ONE I really think thereâ€™s enough similarity to the earlier film that it can legitimately be considered a semi-remake. But itâ€™s the way that the movie is acted and filmed that elevates it. I mean, after â€œDeath Wishâ€ there were plenty of movies produced back in the 70â€™s and 80â€™s with the same revenge plot but those were filmed with a lot less pretension than THE BRAVE ONE is. Itâ€™s a movie that works hard at trying to be a serious, mature study of a how a woman deals with a life-shattering trauma. The direction is measured and even because the movie is determined to be taken seriously. As a result the tension is dialed way down until the last fifteen minutes. In fact, if the rest of THE BRAVE ONE had been as exciting and as suspenseful as the last fifteen minutes weâ€™d have really had something here. As if is, we end up with a movie that tries to be both a character study and a urban thriller and really doesnâ€™t know which one it wants to be. The material of THE BRAVE ONE is solid pulp/grindhouse exploitation but the director and the actors play it as if theyâ€™re all going for next yearâ€™s Oscar.
That necessarily isnâ€™t a bad thing. Hey, it worked for â€œSilence Of The Lambsâ€ which has similar B-movie elements that was elevated by the talent of the director, actors and crew to winning five Academy Awards (and I firmly believe that Jonathan Demme included Roger Corman in the movie as a sly nod to the exploitation roots of that movie) but I donâ€™t think that THE BRAVE ONE is going to pull the same trick. It takes itself way too seriously and spends way too much time trying to be deep and meaningful when what it needed was more thriller elements and more cat-and-mouse between Erica and Mercer.
Thatâ€™s not to say it isnâ€™t enjoyable. Itâ€™s worth going to see just for the performances of Jodie Foster and Terrence Howard, both of who are stunningly good. One of my favorite underrated actors, Nicky Katt is here as Howardâ€™s wisecracking sidekick who brings some much needed humor to the movie. Mary Steenburgen plays Ericaâ€™s boss and she looks better here than she has in a long time.
So should you see THE BRAVE ONE? Itâ€™s not a movie Iâ€™d say you have to run out and see right away unless youâ€™re a fan of Jodie Foster and/or Terrence Howard. I will say that itâ€™s beautifully photographed, looks and sounds great on the big screen. And itâ€™s an okay revenge thriller. But itâ€™s just â€˜okayâ€™. If youâ€™d rather wait for the DVD go right ahead in all good conscience.
WORLD - CULTURE
Copyright © 2010 DLFerguson
The Brave One
Copyright © 2010 DLFerguson
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