Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Neil Jordan
Stars: Jodie Foster, Terrence Howard, Naveen Andrews, Mary Steenburgen, Nicky Katt
The 1970’s saw a spate of violent vigilante films, with Charles Bronson leading the way in the Death Wish series. That film spawned a number of sequels and imitations that seemed to play to the bloodlust of a populace disenchanted with the war in Vietnam and the social and political climate of America.
There must be something in the political wind in America, because the revenge killing genre has now briefly come back into fashion. Kevin Bacon leads the charge with James Wan’s latest film Death Sentence, based on a Brian Garfield novel. But the first film in the vigilante cycle to gain a local release is Irish director Neil Jordan’s The Brave One, which sees Oscar-winner Jodie Foster stalking the mean streets of New York, dispensing her rough brand of justice to a number of thugs and hoodlums.
Foster is cast as Erica Bain, the host of a New York public radio talk show, who is brutally beaten by thugs when walking through Central Park one evening. Her doctor fiancé (Naveen Andrews) is beaten to death. Erica spends three weeks in a coma, and when she recovers she is psychologically damaged and traumatised by her experience. Emotionally and physically she is not the same person she was before the attack, and she views “the safest big city in America” through different eyes. She illegally buys a gun, which she first uses during a convenience store robbery. Seeming to develop a taste for shooting thugs Erica is soon trawling the subways and seedy streets looking for more victims. But Erica is also psychologically tortured by her actions.
While this may not be in the same league as Taxi Driver, The Accused or Silence Of The Lambs, Foster as usual is terrific, especially in those scenes that require her to depict Erica’s fears and anguish. She manages to portray both the strength and vulnerability of her character. Terrence Howard (from Hustle And Flow, etc) is also excellent as an essentially decent homicide detective investigating the crimes, who is drawn towards Erica and her strength.
While seeming to offer valid social comment about the ineffectiveness of the police to deal with a rising spate of urban crime and the inadequacies of the legal system, The Brave One is a morally repugnant film that seems to suggest support for Erica’s actions. The film also makes some tenuous connections to what is happening in Iraq and this thirst for punishing our enemies. The ending is also something of a cop-out that doesn’t convince.
The Brave One would merely be another typical revenge thriller were it not for the quality of the performances or slick direction from veteran Jordan (The Crying Game, Interview With A Vampire, etc), who makes good use of New York locations to create atmosphere.