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September 16, 2007

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Movie Review – The Brave One (2007)

by HELEN GEIB

The Brave One stars Jodie Foster and Terrence Howard and is directed by Neil Jordan. That’s powerhouse talent, and in The Brave One they have made a good genre film. The movie plays it safe to please its target audiences of Jodie Foster fans and revenge story genre fans and I expect it will be popular. The central performances and the filmmaking are good enough that it might have been a great film if it had been less calculated to please, and taken a few more risks.

A few perfunctory opening scenes establish Jodie Foster’s character, Erica, as a confident, self-assured New Yorker, in love and happy with her life, her career and her city. The story proper begins when Erica and her boyfriend are victims of a brutal assault, he is killed and she discovers the crime has turned her into a person defined by fear. She buys a gun. She begins to use it. The first time she kills a man she is acting in self-defense, the second from an ambiguous mixture of fear, rage and a self-destructive compulsion to learn if she really can kill and continue to live with herself. She can, she wishes desperately that she felt a revulsion against her own violence that she doesn’t feel, and she doesn’t put down the gun.

Erica’s psychological breakdown is the heart of the story and is developed through the plot, a narration by Erica, the visual aesthetic of the film and Erica’s complex friendship with Howard’s character, the detective in charge of the vigilante murder case. The film succeeds to varying degrees in these aspects. As expected from a big-budget studio film made by a director of Jordan’s caliber and experience, The Brave One is technically superior, well acted, has good pacing and looks great, evoking the dual heaven-and-hell (and especially the hellish nighttime in the wrong part of town) character of New York.

The plot is generally strong until the climax. It has some of the “too many coincidences” implausibilities inherent in the revenge genre, but it was dramatic and absorbing and remained credible up to the last few minutes. The movie built to one conclusion and then- whether because the scriptwriter wanted a surprise ending or because the script was re-written at the last minute- didn’t lay the groundwork for the alternate conclusion that is actually presented. The ending is very safe, and the starkest point of missed greatness.

The narration is spoken partly as a typical voiceover and partly through the device of Erica’s radio show, for which she wanders the city recording ambient noise to replay accompanied by her musings on New York and life. The narration is at times effective in casting New York as a character in the story and not just a setting, and in showing how Erica’s relationship with the city reflects her life and is warped by her trauma, but these more interesting aspects are under-developed and the narration ultimately is a crutch to develop the characterization.

The best part of the film is the relationship between Erica and the detective. The story has enough substance to give Foster and Howard something to work with, and they make a great deal of it. The friendship is unconventional, intriguing, and emotionally satisfying. It’s the best part of the film. I have no reservations about Foster and Howard’s performances and they are the main reason The Brave One, despite the problems in its story, is a good film.

2 1/2 stars


Read more from Helen Geib, Movie Reviews
3 Comments Post a comment
  1. lola
    Sep 20 2007

    I have to say- I haven’t seen this.
    It did not look intersting to me.
    the review here makes me think twice- but can’t get over the cliches, the stupid title, or the Jodie Foster as powerful victim schtick.
    UGH
    Am I wrong?

  2. Helen
    Sep 20 2007

    I don’t like the title, either. The meaning/definition of bravery isn’t really one of the themes of the film, and it’s not even a catchy title. This is definitely a star vehicle, so whether you’d enjoy it depends very much on whether you react positively to Foster as an actress.

  3. jan
    Oct 3 2007

    LOVED this movie..Thought Jodies Foster’s transformation was amazing and loved the music by Sarah McLachlan in the love scene…Great great movie, lots of excitement and can understand how she would feel….Jodie is beautiful and a great actress..loved it.

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