The Brave One

The Brave One


Reviewed by: Chris

In Tarantino's Death Proof, two of the characters have an unpretentious discussion about carrying guns. One of them suggests carrying a pepper spray against would-be attackers. While her friend carries a gun to 'waste' any guy who tries to rape her. It follows the American duality and obsession over firearms which is a mystery to most of the civilised world. Death Proof, like The Brave One, can be seen as a female revenge movie. But Tarantino's film has a lot of other threads going for it - and never takes itself too seriously. Which is the first of many problems with The Brave One.

Jodie Foster loves playing strong women and I love her for it. But here her reincarnation as a Death Wish NY vigilante is not only banal but takes itself oh-so seriously from each overly-acted emotional moment to the next. And the transformation from nice career girl to gun-totin' scumbag-destroyer is laid on with a trowel. Every time she wastes a dirtbag, we are treated to long homilies as she mopes over the killing. We know the plot. From I Spit On Your Grave to Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, a woman intimidated by evil men gets her own back. Failed by the system, the strong female takes law into her own hands.

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Jodie Foster's character has been beaten up, her fiance killed. Checking on his death, she is kept waiting a little too long at the police station. So she calmly walks across the road and buys a gun.

Now I ask you, is that a good response? Or even a believable one? People I know who have been through that sort of trauma tend to avoid deserted parks and late night subway stations. Not Foster. You feel invaded, a different person. And the Brave One does get this bit right. But it uses pretentious waffling about identity to cover up a lack of real moral arguments. I've been mugged twice in my life. Not badly. But enough to make me a lot more careful when I go out. Not Foster. No counselling or talking it through with friends either. An upstanding, educated woman, she goes out, buys a gun - an illegal one, to save time - and then goes looking for trouble.

The men she meets are all epitomes of evil. This simplifies the shoddy ethical arguments. I would like to think the streets are a safer place with people like this bumped off. But murdering the odd pimp and happy-slapper? I hardly think so. And who is The Brave One? Not the woman who isn't brave enough to deal with what has happened to her and resorts to violence. Not the cop who isn't brave enough to stick to his principles. I think the title is just a brave attempt to draw in audiences. A cross-section of men and women who are brave enough (and over the required age limit) to watch this stuff.

As a young man I spent a year managing a night club. As a rookie, I once went outside to 'talk' to a difficult customer who turned out to be a karate enthusiast. I asked him what hitting me would achieve. "It will make me feel better," he said. And that, stripped of all the romanticised hogwash, is the argument of this movie. It makes the vigilante 'feel better'.

The heroine of this film 'struggles' with her conscience so we can identify and empathise with her. And there is the necessary troubled cop who 'struggles' with the limits of what the law can achieve. So he can meet her halfway, of course. Terrence Howard makes a reasonable stab at this woosy character. But I find it hard to imagine a NY cop who looks as if he is about to burst into tears any minute. And when he runs a few paces to catch her in a lobby he is almost out of breath. Again, I hardly think so.

The film does have one or two good moments. I found the discussion of one unfortunate's demise hilarious. "Cause of death could be the fall. Could be the crowbar stuck in his skull." And the violence of the initial attack upon which the film hangs is pretty graphic without becoming completely gratuitous. But they hardly made waiting for this pointless movie to end any easier.

Jodie Foster has an illustrious career and much to be proud of, including two well-deserved Oscars. I know it can be hard for top women actors to get decent parts. I know we need more strong role models in films for women rather than reducing female characters to mere props for male-dominated movies. Like the powerful woman Foster gives us in Silence Of The Lambs, The Accused, Contact, or even Flightplan. But this is one I shall try to forget. I'm sorry, but the characters in this one suck, Jodie. And so does your movie.

Reviewed on: 22 Sep 2007
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The survivor of a brutal attack hunts down her assailants.
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Director: Neil Jordan

Writer: Roderick Taylor, Bruce A. Taylor, Cynthia Mort

Starring: Jodie Foster, Terrence Howard, Nicky Katt, Naveen Andrews, David Kirmani, Mary Steenburgen, Ene Oloja

Year: 2007

Runtime: 119 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US, Australia


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