Friday, 28 September 2007

The Brave One - Review by Robert Duffin

Director: Neil Jordan
Screenwriters: Roderick Taylor & Bruce A. Taylor
Running Time: 119 mind
Certificate: 18
Released: 28th September

With the Tony Scott-esque poster adorning bus shelters everywhere, it’s a surprise to discover that the latest Jodie Foster film, The Brave One, is in fact directed by Neil Jordan; he of the Crying Game, Interview with the Vampire and more recently Breakfast on Pluto. So the poster is oh so Domino, yet in interviews it’s being touted as a modern day Taxi Driver. The mixed messages received from the marketing are only the beginning of the contradictions that riddle this vigilante revenge drama.

Erica (Foster) is a radio personality who is sickeningly happy with her beau David (Naveen Andrews of Lost) but tragedy soon strikes. They are assaulted in Central Park and David is murdered while Erica is left for dead. When she recovers, Erica struggles to return to her normal life and can’t even walk the streets of her once beloved New York without having an anxiety attack. She buys a gun to reassure herself but after killing a man who holds up a convenience store, she turns vigilante and sets out to rid the streets of evildoers. Hot on the vigilante’s trail is Detective Mercer (Terence Howard) who befriends Erica and begins to add up the pieces of the puzzle.

Foster, a wonderful actress albeit with limited range, finds her comfort zone in the character of Erica, especially when she has to deal with the traumatic repercussions of the attack. The delivery of her wedding invitations or returning for the first time from the hospital to find David’s effects all over her apartment are scenes that grip at the heart. However once she dons the Ray Bans and leather and goes a little Death Wish, she does it with her typical morose gravitas and the tone never recovers. The screenplay by Roderick and Bruce A. Taylor could have easily been a sleazy B-movie had Neil Jordan not rescued it with his visual panache.

Is it social commentary or escapist action? I’m not sure, and I don’t think the filmmakers could decide either. The scenes of violence are well handled and suitably brutal, but you feel a little dirty for engaging with them on the level of pure action. For a film seemingly about morality and issues of gun ownership in the United States, it’s amazing how much Erica is rewarded for her lack of ethics and gun fetish, especially in the eye rolling dénouement. Yet the solid performance by Foster, whose character instincts have never been wrong in her thirty-year career, elevates The Brave One into a watchable experience.

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