Jodie Foster puts her acting career back into play with an intense performance in Neil Jordan's otherwise routine rehash of Death Wish/urban-revenge thriller cliches.
Three weeks after New York City radio personality Erica Bain (Foster) and her fiance (Lost's Naveen Andrews) are badly beaten by a trio of hoods in Central Park, Erica wakes up from her coma to find her whole world has been turned upside down: Her fiance is dead, the fair city she once referred to as "the safest big city in the world" now seems a dark and dangerous place, and Erica is no longer the brave and confident woman she once was. Fearful to the point of paranoia and filled with inchoate anxiety and rage, Erica buys a gun, not from a licensed gun dealer because she is too anxious to wait the 30 days it takes to get a permit, but off a stranger on a Chinatown street. Erica first puts her new little friend to use late one night in her local bodega when a domestic dispute turns deadly, then again on a downtown subway when she's menaced by two thugs. This scary new Erica Bain, who prowls the city streets late at night like an armed avenger who doesn't hesitate to aim and shoot, is a stranger the old Erica doesn't recognize, and she secretly wants to be caught. Even though Erica's shootings happen in opposite ends of the city, by-the-book NYPD detective Sean Mercer (Terrence Howard) is called to both scenes (the first in the script's lapses in logic), immediately sees a pattern (the second) and knows in his gut that there's a vigilante afoot. Erica and Sean cross paths at the second crime scene, he recognizes her from her hospital stay (even though she was beaten beyond recognition), and they become friends (a third and fatal stretch of credibility). The more intimate they become, the more Sean suspects his mystery gunman isn't a man at all, and is a lot closer than he first thought.
Pinching her mouth and dropping her voice into the hard-edged, raspy whisper she honed under Hannibal Lecter's glare in THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, Foster is raw and fearless and thoroughly believable as a woman who fills the void left by the murder of the man she loved with more death, becoming a disturbing cross between Travis Bickel, Dirty Harry and DEATH WISH's Paul Kersey. There are many ways of dying, as Erica's mysterious African neighbor, a survivor of a terrible genocide, tells her. Now she must find a way to live after violence has disrupted her life. But the film doesn't offer any options, and by tapping into the audience's rage and feelings of helplessness (terrorism and the war in Iraq are mentioned), and offering a climax that resigns itself to the inevitably of Erica's new lifestyle, it invites the viewer to yell "Pull the damn trigger!" every time she aims her gun at a bad guy. Regardless of the artistry involved (though the street-level anxiety of post-9/11 New York is far better evoked in Jane Campion's underrated IN THE CUT), THE BRAVE ONE ultimately never really strays from the same moral low road as DEATH WISH.
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- Released: 2007
- Rating: R
- Review: Jodie Foster puts her acting career back into play with an intense performance in Neil Jordan's otherwise routine rehash of Death Wish/urban-revenge thriller cliches. Three weeks after New York City radio personality Erica Bain (Foster) and her fiance… (more)