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September 2007

By Wilson Morales


Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Director: Neil Jordan
Producers: Joel Silver, Susan Downey
Screenwriter: Cynthia Mort, Neil Jordan
Composer: Dario Marianelli
Cast: Jodie Foster, Terrence Howard, Naveen Andrews, Mary Steenburgen, Nicky Katt, Carmen Ejojo, and Zoe Kravitz



Since when did violence become legal? Genres come and go in this business depending how certain films do at the box office. Once “Chicago” became a hit and won the Oscar for Best Picture, a slew of musicals started being produced, some good and some not up to par. The same goes with “Braveheart”, whose success led to the makings of “Gladiator”, “Troy”, and “300”. Somehow, the vigilante films are being brought to the back to the big screen as if there was a need to justify vengeance. Charles Bronson is the one person that comes to mind when you think of this genre because of the “Death Wish” films he did and the way those films played out. While the first film wasn’t exactly a great film, it would ultimately be his signature film although he had done plenty of credible work prior to that. Very recently, Kevin Bacon dabbled in this genre with “Death Sentence”, but his film was poorly executed and became an action film whose initial purpose was lost midway in the film. Jodie Foster, one of the best actresses in the business, having won two Oscars, brings respect to any film she does. She doesn’t do massive amounts of film for the sake of just working, so one could assume that she carefully chooses her projects. In her latest film, “The Brave One”, Foster enters the vigilante genre and although the film is credible to a certain point, it too loses its focus towards the ends and becomes another contrived film filled with more action and less substance.

Erica Bain (Foster), is a happy New Yorker who works at a radio station as the host of a program called “Street Walk”, where she talks about the daily happenings of the city and shares her opinions to the people. She’s also in love with her fiancé David Kirmani (Andrews), who meets her one evening after work and decides to walk their dog in Central Park. That evening would lead to a tragedy as they are attacked by thugs that left David dead and Erica is intensive care for weeks. When Erica recovers and learns of David’s death, her life is shattered that she can’t function as a person let alone leave the house without being suspicious of every noise around her. Detective Sean Mercer (Howard) is in the midst of losing a case that he had been working on when he comes across Erica’s situation and tries to help out. When Erica can’t stand the feeling of being afraid and doesn’t get the results she wants when goes by the police station and they have no leads on her case, she goes out and buys an illegal gun. Going through to process of getting one legally takes too much time. Her fear is put the test the minute she senses danger and puts the gun to use, over and over again, leading Mercer to seek out this new “killer”. As he tries to put the pieces together, Erica also battles her own conscious as to whether or not her plight of justice as a means to an end and if it’s justified.

Directed by Neil Jordan, the film is intense, gritty, and emotional, and although Foster and Howard give credible performance, somehow midway through the film, the focus of right and wrong shifted to an action film that lessened any degree of plausibility the film may have had from the beginning. Foster, as always, gives a powerful performance as a woman who lost her will to be normal and needs a “fix” to get herself straight. As a radio personality who talks about the city, she needs to be free and being fearful of anything is making her trapped, and Foster leads one to believe that her actions, though violent as it may be, are justified, especially since the folks she’s killing are criminals to begin with. Her scenes with Howard, who also gives a good performance when he’s on screen with his partner, played Nicky Katt, is where the film gets weaker and becomes less credible. While the two initially meet to solve her case, their constant involvement with each other seems more artificial. There’s only so much a detective can do to stay on the right course of the law. By the end of the film, you are left wondering if anything was really solved and all parties involved can back to leading a normal life.