Expectations are high when you’re the writer and director behind two classic crime films of the 80’s – Angel and Mona Lisa – so, it’s not surprising that Neil Jordan’s latest, The Brave One, starring Jodie Foster and Terence Howard, makes every effort to evoke the glory of the past but doesn’t quite seem to ever really find the moral and plot focus that made those early films so great. His latest is hamstrung by a series of unbelievable coincidences and a moral perspective that is naive at best and offensive at worst.
Jodie Foster plays Erica Bain, a radio host with an amazingly idyllic life. She’s engaged to David (Naveen Andrews), and they love each other so deeply that walking the dog in Central Park at night doesn’t seem to strike either of them as dangerous, nor does allowing their German Shepherd to roam around off leash seem to be anything but normal. This sense of heightened idealistic and romantic living is required in order to insure that when it is stripped away, the pain and shock will be greater.
Unsurprisingly, they are confronted by a group of tattooed, drunk thugs who beat Erica close to death, kill her fiancé and take her dog. Erica awakens from her injuries weeks later to find that the person she once was is gone, replaced by a different person. One who is paranoid, and wants revenge, but conveniently, isn’t consciously seeking it. It just sort of happens. She decides to buy a gun on a whim, but those nasty gun laws are in the way, so she pays a cool grand for a black market pistola, which is conveniently provided by a man who happens to overhear her being turned away from the gun shop for not having a permit.
The next thing we know, Erica is in a sleazy bodega at the exact moment a pissed off husband decides to pop four bullets into his ex-wife who’s the clerk at the bodega. The guy goes after Erica who is hiding in the back, but she blows him away with her brand new 9mm. Killing people gets good to her, so when she finds herself on a deserted train and two thugs decide to come at her with a knife, she blows them away too. It’s a lot of coincidental crime to happen to one individual in so short a time frame. And, it’s just the beginning. Erica pops off two more murders before finally going after the bad guys who killed her beloved fiancé.
The script needs this great leap of coincidence and her admission that her old self is gone, replaced by a new persona, to shield Erica from the brutal reality that she is essentially a serial killer stalking the streets of NYC. Conveniently, all the people she happens to kill are guilty, and no stray bullets kill any innocent bystanders, so what’s the big deal?
Although a drug addicted abducted street walker Erica tries to rescue is nearly killed by her actions, there is nothing in the movie that even hints at any real world ramifications for murdering a total of eight people before the movie is over. Even Son of Sam killed only six people, and the city experienced a media frenzy and police dragnet of the highest magnitude. The world of The Brave One though is devoid of any such problematic realities, Terence Howard being the sole detective on the case apparently. The final moral premise that is driven home is that the justice system is broken, so killing people is a morally correct action to take. As long as the people you kill are really guilty, and they really deserve it, and you can get away with it. More fantasy than reality.
The lensing by Philippe Rousselot is top notch, and there are moments of cinematic brilliance within the uneven and unremarkable whole that will engage those seeking a little thrill. If you like fantasy movies where the law of the land is flouted, the bad guy gets blown away, (the audience claps blood lustily at this point) the hero gets away with with it, and gets the dog back, then you’ll dig The Brave One.
Rating from 1 to 10: 2