September 16, 2007 -- Another week, another revenge movie from Hollywood. First it was “Death Sentence” and now its “The Brave One.” Vigilante justice is back in favor again, just like back in the days of the “Death Wish” and “Dirty Harry” series of films. Of course it never really goes out of fashion in Hollywood. The belief in the God-given right to kill scumbags, guilty or not, is as American as Apple Pie. If it wasn't, there'd be no death sentence. There is nothing new whatsoever in this film. The only thing that sets it apart is the top-notch talent on both sides of the camera. Behind the camera is writer-director Neil Jordan, the talented director of such films as “The Crying Game,” “Interview With the Vampire” and “The Good Thief.” In front of the camera are the academy award-winning actress Jodie Foster (“Panic Room”) and the Oscar-nominated actor Terrence Howard (“Crash”). All that talent translates into a pretty good movie right up to the last reel. Then it collapses with an absurd Hollywood ending that is beyond belief.
Foster plays radio talk show host Erica Bain, who is brutally beaten in an attack which leaves her fiance (Naveen Andrews of “Grindhouse”) dead and her in a coma for weeks. Once she recovers, she buys a gun and ends up shooting and killing a murderer who just happens to murder his wife in the convenience store where she is shopping. Don't you just hate it when that happens? The shooting was self-defense and justified, but she runs from the scene, pausing to steal an incriminating video tape. She then kills two more bad guys on a subway, one of whom menaces her with a knife. She is well on her way to becoming a vigilante killer. Before the killings, Bain was afraid to walk the streets alone. Now she is bolder, more self-confident. This represents an unusual wrinkle on trauma therapy: empowerment by murder. Bain becomes friends with police detective Sean Mercer (Terrence Howard) who is trying to solve the shootings which she committed. Eventually Mercer figures out that Bain is the killer, but he has feelings for her. What will he do?
I'm not going to give away the ending, except to say that it is inconsistent with what the characters have said and done in the rest of the movie. It is way out of character and it is hard to imagine such a scenario happening in the real world. I was frankly astonished at the ending of the film. Not that the rest of the film is all that believable either. There are some credibility problems with Bain being such a dead-eye shot with a handgun despite having no discernable experience or training in how to use it. New York has a lot of people in it, but there are no witnesses to most of the shootings. Situations where Bain feels the need to shoot someone happen a little too frequently and are a little too conveniently staged. There are police who work their entire careers without shooting anyone, while Bain just keeps getting herself into these shooting situations. Nevertheless, Foster and Howard are outstanding actors and they play their roles very well in this film, keeping the empowerment-by-murder plot from sinking until the end. It rates a C+.
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