Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Brave One (2007) Dir. Neil Jordan

It's very difficult not to make comparisons between The Brave One (2007) and Taxi Driver (1976) or Death Wish (1974). The Brave One plays like a combination of the two but can't really make the movie gel. There are other vengeance movies but these three in particular use New York City not only as a location but as a character. Unlike the NYC of thirty years ago today's NYC is a "Disneyland, safe for tourists and out-of-towners" and "the safest big city in the world." The Brave One chips at this new and shiny veneer but never really gets past it.

The basic premise of The Brave One is pretty simple. Jodie Foster plays Erica Bain, a public radio talk show host who wanders the city recording ambient sound and saying public radio stuff about the changing city, etc, etc. If you listen to NPR you'll know what I mean. Her fiance is the Indian guy from Lost - Naveen Andrews. I was worried there would be some sort racial hate crime factor but there wasn't. I was also glad to see that Jodie Foster wasn't a lesbian - that would have been too heavy handed and would have turned the movie into a preachier IFC movie. One night Erica and her fiance take their dog for a walk in Central Park. A gang of hoodlums take the dog, beat the fiance to death, and put Jodie Foster in a coma. It's actually a jarringly violent scene - as it should be - but it's also given a eerily realistic quality by the fact that one of the assailants is digitally recording it. I don't know why that aspect made me uneasy - possibly because sick fuckers actually do this and rewatch it for fun. Bain ends up in a coma for weeks, wakes up, and is a total mental trainwreck who can't leave her apartment. Then one day she buys a pistol and we all know what happens after that.

Foster is pretty good in The Brave One and Terence Howard is hands down one of my current favorite actors. The cinematography is solid and Neil Jordan is still a pretty sharp director. Unfortunately the script and story are pretty weak with and ending that pretty much flushes any message or credibility the movie could have had. I was actually looking forward to a film about the effects of intense violence on a person - mentally, spiritually, ethically, and morally (what I was hoping to get from A History of Violence)- and the effects of her vigilante rampage would have on the general public. These were all touched upon in the movie but only in passing, Bernie Goetz is mentioned even. I guess I was also expecting a "bad old New York" feel - a.k.a. beneath all the lights and sparkle there's a festering sewer of humanity. The first half of the movie is actually pretty good now that I think about it but the second half is a complete and total cop-out. The ending seems like it was tacked on because test audiences didn't like the real ending.

In the end The Brave One falls pretty flat and doesn't put any real focus on any of the issues that could have been addressed. Disappointing at best.

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