Review: 'Brave One' a well-dressed vigilante film

“The Brave One” played to audiences weeks before it hit the screen. Jodie Foster, not reputed for her chattiness, held interviews, letting everyone know the movie wasn’t what it seemed.

In an exchange with Entertainment Weekly, she indicated that if people found pleasure in the revenge, toward which the film so craftily leads us, it’s due to a lack of sophistication.

The audience with whom I viewed the film failed the test. They cheered at the very parts the leading star said they shouldn’t have — shame on them.

Apparently critics also missed Jodie’s point. More than one describes her post-brutalized character as “turned vigilante”.

In the same aforementioned interview, Jodie is at a loss to explain the title. That makes sense. “The Brave One” is anything but.

The producers however, do have an explanation. “… the courage to overcome her fear and take back her life inwhatever way she can. That’s what makes her ‘The Brave One’.”

This glossy pic from producer Joel Silver ( “The Matrix”, “Die Hard”, “Lethal Weapon”) essentially gives an upgrade to “Death Wish”, a 1978 unapologetic and low-brow vigilante vehicle. The first of this franchise’s several sequels received the dubious and rare distinction of receiving zero stars in a Roger Ebert review.

The concept remains basically the same to which Jodie Foster brings a bankable name, class, and an amazing performance—a silk purse wrapped in a sow’s ear. A well-honed script and strong production values support her performance.

Directing the film is the masterful Neil Jordan (“The Crying Game”).

Erica Bain (Jodie Foster), a radio show host, like architect Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) in “Death Wish”, leans liberal. More culturally attuned, she embraces New York’s cultures, eccentricities and aliveness as though it were an organism.

She walks the streets recording its sounds—jackhammers, street vendors, and steam vents. Over these blended sounds, she poetically recounts the melodramatic stories of her beloved home to the microphone.

And she’s in love, her intended, a dark-skinned, handsome Indian nurse. They look forward to marriage.

One evening at dusk, walking the talk of Erica’s radio program, they take their dog for a stroll into Central Park, following their off-leash canine into a dark tunnel. For the audience, but not the couple, the result is predictable.

Their mugging is particularly viscous in tone and action. The Latino attackers, corn-rowed and tattooed, begin with taunts suggesting cultural contempt and resentment.

From the inception, the thugs videotape the event, scrap-booking their crime.

The event comes to us through blurred pictures and rapid editing, accompanied by a chorus of vindictive, foul mouthed invectives.

Waking in a hospital bed, Erica finds her lover did not survive. It takes a while for her body to recover; her mind never does.

This woman, an embracer of all that is New York, suddenly and a bit unbelievably experiences an immense transition. She scores a gun with the ease of grabbing a hot dog from a street cart.

Armed and more than ready, she attacks not crime, but slime, cleaning up scum like a 50’s housewife with a firm grip on her Mr. Clean.

Detective Mercer (Terrance Howard), who spoke to Erica in the hospital while working another case, befriends her, establishing an awkward intimacy. By theatrical coincidence he draws the assignment of lead detective in the vigilante incidents.

With the assistance of indirect clues from a shooter that wants to be discovered, the pieces start to fall in place for the policeman.

“The Brave One” essentially sanctions culturally targeted and somewhat indiscriminate vigilantism, as a response to what Ms. Foster concedes is an infrequent incident, occurring in “the safest large city in the world.”

It’s certain to generate controversy for the end of the year Academy Awards race. Word of mouth should give it longevity at the box office.

Unlike “Deathwish”, it dresses up well.

Grade: B

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