The Brave One

October 3, 2007

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Jodie Foster sure does like playing women in trouble. Apart from her delicious role in Spike Lee’s Inside Man last year, recently she’s starred as a grieving mother trying to find her daughter in Flightplan and a mother trying to protect her daughter from thieves in the astonishing Panic Room. Look further back, she won her first Oscar playing rape victim in The Accused, and her first Oscar nomination, and the part that made her famous, was that of young prostitute Iris in Taxi Driver.

Of all her films, it’s Taxi Driver that stays in the memory the most and, 31 years later, it seems that the stunning tale of one man seeking redemption among the streets of New York the main inspiration behind this well-acted, somewhat ambiguous film. Foster stars as Erica Bain, a radio host who walks the city, recording any audio samples of interest then making a pretentious show based around them. She is soon to be married to handsome David (Naveen Andrews), displaying their obsession with each other for every second that they are on screen together. But one night when walking their Alsatian in Central Park, they are brutally attacked by a group of gang bangers. She wakes up three weeks later still battered and bruised and told that David was killed. Traumatised and unable to regain the zest of her life before the incident, she buys a gun, and goes on a vigilante mission to rid the city of human filth and take revenge on those who nearly murdered her.

 

You can see why Foster connected with Erica. She only ever plays strong women, and Erica is a fighter, someone with a seemingly perfect existence whose life changes in a flash. But she’s hardly the female version of Travis Bickle – Erica is a far less interesting, less dangerous character. It’s fortunate that Foster is a good enough dramatic actor to keep it believable, and inject some much-needed pathos into what could so easily have been a two-dimensional character. But what keeps The Brave One ticking over is her relationship with Detective Mercer, played with quiet brilliance by Terrence Howard. He’s always been a by-the-book cop, but his patience is being tested because he is unable to prosecute the criminals in the city. It’s this connection between the two that holds our attention, both of them looking to right wrongs, and to do so both their morals and values will be tested.

This film is a bit of a peculiarity: it has moments of astute quality, yet never quite manages to be the sum of its parts. Director Neil Jordan usually takes on challenging material, but this never quite to be as fully involving, or arresting, as one may have hoped, and the ending is somewhat questionable on many levels. Technically Jordan handles it well, although the jolting music and angled camera shots whenever danger comes close is hardly subtle or that necessary. But Foster is very good, as always she is, Howard gives another stellar performance every bit as good as his turn in Paul Haggis’ Crash, and Nicky Katt gives a wonderfully sarcastic performance as Mercer’s partner Vitale. It’s very watchable, at times gripping, and Erica’s journey is an emotional one.

THE CRUNCH 

3/5 Criminals wasted

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