Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Brave One: Grade B

The Brave One (2007)
Jodie Foster, Terence Lawrence. Director Neil Jordan.

Though mistitled (nobody is brave in this movie), this revenge thriller is emotionally satisfying. A NYC woman is beaten into a coma and her fiancĂ© killed by a gang of thugs in Central Park, late at night. When you see the couple walking nonchalantly into one of those dark creepy overpass tunnels in the park that even a tourist would avoid, you are cued that this will be a clichĂ©-ridden story. Foster’s character recovers, traumatized, now seeing her beloved city as alien and frightening. She buys a gun for self defense, but inexplicably still likes to walk around seedy streets at night, stepping over drunks, taking late night subways, going into dimly lit convenience stores. Bad guys show up in these situations and she kills them. She is supposed to be surprised at her own behavior, but that’s not very convincing and denies motive anyway. Yet she isn’t enraged. She isn’t really out for revenge, since these are random bad guys. She isn’t overtly looking for trouble. She is supposed to be in some kind of dissociative state in which she is only vaguely aware of her zero tolerance of bad guys.

Detective Lawrence is on the trail of “the vigilante killer” (although the papers would have no reason to call it vigilantism), and he eventually suspects it is her, but they develop an implausible relationship of trust and intimacy. Finally, she decides to go after her original assailants and amazingly, immediately finds them through some moves that we can surmise but which were edited out. There is no explanation for her sudden change in motivation from mentally disturbed sleepwalker to clenched-jaw revenge killer. But she gets her satisfaction.

It is a competently told but hackneyed story without anything new to say. However, Foster’s acting is the best I’ve ever seen of her. She has come a long way since Silence of the Lambs. I also think it is gutsy for a prominent female actor to appear without makeup, showing her age, having full confidence in her craft. Terence Lawrence also turns in a strong performance. The music is very well designed, the way it often contrasts with the violent action. The cinematography is consistently outstanding. These plusses raise the picture above average.

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