Director Neil Jordan has come a long way since his glory days on films like “The Crying Game” and “Interview with a Vampire,” and I say that in the least flattering way possible. His latest film, “The Brave One,” feels more like a product of an inexperienced filmmaker than a proven Oscar winner, and though it’s mostly the fault of the screenwriters (Roderick Taylor and Bruce A. Taylor) for compiling such a disorganized story, Jordan should be held equally responsible for failing to pull it together into a more cohesive piece of fiction. Instead, the movie just sort of floats around for an ungodly amount of time, praying that the audience will be affected enough by the graphic violence in the beginning that they’ll ignore all of the other warts that plague the film. Because when all is said and done, “The Brave One” isn’t just another revenge flick – it’s a multimillion dollar anti-tourist commercial for “the safest big city” in the world.
Jodie Foster stars as Erica Bain, a New York radio personality who, along with her fiancé David (Naveen Andrews), is brutally assaulted one night while walking their dog in Central Park. When she awakens from a three-week coma to discover that David wasn’t so lucky, Erica – now completely consumed by fear – buys a gun off the black market for protection. It doesn’t take very long before she’s forced to use it in self-defense, either. Caught in the middle of a domestic disturbance at the local convenience store, Erica shoots to kill, developing a taste for revenge as a result and prompting future acts of vigilantism. Of course, Erica breaks the first rule of crime when she makes nice with the detective (Terrence Howard) working the case – a blossoming friendship that only makes it more difficult on him when he discovers that it’s Erica who’s been playing the role of Charles Bronson all along.
After commanding the screen in recent tough chick thrillers like “Panic Room” and “Flightplan,” Foster seems the obvious choice to star as the “woman with a grudge.” Perhaps a little too obvious – though she makes great use of her strong, bird-like features and masculinity – to create a unique character that the audience hasn’t already seen the actress tackle several times before. But Jodie Foster is Jodie Foster, and when she’s not spouting out a cheesy one-liner or talking like Batman (“I walk in the dark”), the actress delivers yet another fine performance that’s worthy of her already impressive career. In fact, if it weren’t for Foster and co-star Terrence Howard (who manages to shine in every movie he’s in, good or bad), “The Brave One” would have been even more of a chore to sit through. The duo’s onscreen chemistry isn’t even that strong (I was more interested in the buddy cop dynamic between Howard and his wisecracking partner played by Nicky Katt), but it’s still fun to watch such talented actors, even when they’re dragged through an ending that reeks of every cliché from the past 20 years.
Unfortunately, the actors can only distract you for so long before you realize that the two-hour movie is starting to feel a lot more like three hours. It’s bad enough when a film doesn’t really go anywhere in the time allotted, but when it does so alongside such horrible pacing, it’s really hard not to notice. It’s just as hard not to notice the many conveniences that string along the story, like the fact that Foster’s character has never once been a victim of violence in New York prior to her initial attack (but becomes one three times in the span of a few months afterwards), or the convenience of her job as an AM radio host, which allows for the overhead narration to flow whenever Jordan wants the audience to know what Erica is thinking. And how about the obvious play-on-words with Erica’s last name, Bain, which shares the same pronunciation with the word “bane,” meaning death and destruction, or one who causes both? It’s all quite ridiculous when you sit down to think about it, and while I’d rather not overanalyze a revenge film that can’t even decide whether it’s for or against the moral implications of vigilantism, I can’t help but think that the film would have been better off not taking itself so seriously.
The single-disc release of “The Brave One” is an incredibly lackluster affair. Warner Bros. was no doubt feeling pressure to include some sort of extras on the DVD, but the ones that appear here simply aren’t worthy of inclusion. The 21-minute “I Walk the City” plays more like a glorified EPK than an actual making-of featurette, while the six minutes of deleted scenes feel tacked on.