Image courtesy of impawards.com
Jodie Foster .Erica Bain
Terrence Howard .Detective Mercer
Nicky Katt .Detective Vitale
Naveen Andrews .David Kirmani
Mary Steenburgen .Carol
Ene Oloja .Josai
Luis Da Silva Jr. .Lee
Blaze Foster .Cash
Rafael Sardina .Reed
Jane Adams .Nicole
Gordon MacDonald .Murrow
Zoe Kravitz .Chloe
John Magaro .Ethan
Victor Colicchio .Cutler
The gun blasts in The Brave One reverberate off the walls of the mind the same way thunder can shake an entire house. Each shot fired echoes in the ears long after Jodie Foster’s vigilante justice has been served. Not only does director Neil Jordan want that sound to stay with the viewer, he needs it in order to embed his message in the viewer’s chest like a nine millimeter slug. The Brave One showcases its violence, makes it memorable, but it never celebrates it. Better put, it never celebrates its violence until the exact moment when it would be most important not to.
“I want my dog back!” Foster demands of her attackers as DMX plays on the preview’s soundtrack. It is the kind of action movie line the garners cheers out of the audience; it is also incredibly misleading. The Brave One is not a typical one-woman-army movie until the last 15 minutes, and when it finally degenerates it could not be more disappointing. Jordan goes to great lengths to instill the audience with the same fear and discomfort that Foster’s victim feels after she and her fiancÃ© are beaten by a gang of thugs. As Foster’s instincts kick in and her behavior becomes more animalistic, the fear still grows inside her, but soon she becomes afraid of herself. With each self-righteous act of murder she commits, the audience is expected to respond with shocked horror as well as sympathy.
Foster’s performance and Jordan’s jarring directing style, paranoia inducing slanted angles and grainy film stock shot in confined spaces juxtaposed with vivid, intimate flashbacks of Foster’s past life, create a disquieting mood that lingers in the brain. But Terrance Howard as a line-towing, moralistic detective is the element that reminds us that Foster is not a woman who should be cheered for her actions. In fact, Howard’s very presence leads Foster to become somewhat hubristic. Both feel what they do is right, but Foster conveys the sort of invincible nonchalance that might come with the sense of empowerment a gun symbolizes.
As her anonymous vigilante’s legend grows, Foster begins to buy into her own hype actively seeking out scenarios in which she can inflict her vengeance. By day, she is still mousy and scared even if she has gained a sort of twisted confidence. At one point she tries turning herself in only to think better of it because she has not acted out her intended revenge. At times The Brave One is a Tyler Durden away from being a Fight Club rehash, but Foster’s self-awareness as well as Howard’s consciousness of the situation seem to indicate a deeper meaning to all that is happening.
The audience comes to understand that Foster is not who she once was and never will be again. She expects her final confrontation with her attackers to be the end of her transformation, and to that end there are a number of natural, realistic outcomes that Jordan could choose from. But he nullifies the major impact his film could have had by opting for an audience friendly “happy” ending. Howard at last catches Foster in the act and instead of arresting her as he said explicitly he would do, he makes a joke and lets her finish the job legally with his gun. Aside from the fact that his decision is almost a complete 180 from the character Howard had built to that point, it is disheartening to see Foster walk away without punishment.
It is disappointing to see Jordan end his film in such a cowardly fashion after building a true interest in his capable leads’ performances. The Brave One‘s story has a logical flow that, while it should make audiences feel sick, remains true to itself almost until the very end. I honestly believed The Brave One would end in a more compelling way than Foster walking away into the night. For a time, it felt like we were being shown something special, but it turns out we might have been better off with a hip-hop infused, “whose the bitch now?”, crowd-pleasing action movie. It is a shame that The Brave One as a film did not have the courage to see its vision through to the end.
FINAL RATING (ON A SCALE OF 1-5 BUCKETS):