Director: Neil Jordan
Cast: Jodie Foster, Terrence Howard, Naveen Andrews, Nicky Katt, Mary Steenburgen, Ene Oloja
If you're the kind of person who appreciates good and consistent acting, you can't go wrong with Jodie Foster. She surely isn't a two-time Oscar winner for nothing. Although initially typecast as the vulnerable female that finds strength within herself to fight back (Silence Of The Lambs, Panic Room, Flightplan), she broke the trend by starring in the Spike Lee thriller Inside Man as a ruthless problem solver. Now she's back as yet another vulnerable woman, though this time it's far more real than ever.
In The Brave One, Foster plays Erica Bain, a radio show host in New York City who records sounds of the city and talks about it on air. She is about to get married to her beloved fiancee David Kirmani (Naveen Andrews) and she couldn't be happier. But that is not to be, as she and David are attacked by three thugs while walking her dog at Central Park. Erica wakes up at the hospital three weeks later and learns that David is dead.
Devastated, Erica struggles to come to terms with her fiancee's demise, grieving and at the same time feeling unsafe. The police aren't very helpful with her situation, so she decides to buy a gun, illegally. One night, she encounters an armed man at the local convenience store and shoots him dead. Her initial reaction to this is of shock and maybe even shame, but it finally gives her the courage to live and a reason to go on.
Enter Detective Mercer (Terrence Howard), a cop who is frustrated at one of his cases that he is unable to close because his hands are bound by the law. He investigates the store shooting alongside his partner, Detective Vitale (Nicky Katt) and thinks that it is a work of a vigilante. Then Erica gets herself in two more situations and kills another three men. Mercer realises that it's all done by the same person thanks to ballistic reports. Before long, Mercer runs into Erica, and they form a friendship, a bond of sorts. Mercer sympathises with Erica's loss, and Erica in turn takes pity over Mercer's inability to close his case. But when Mercer starts putting all the clues together and learns of Erica's role in the vigilante killings, he realises that he has to do something about it quickly, as Erica closes in on the three men who attacked her......
Naturally, this is a revenge tale which isn't too different from The Punisher, except that the comicbook driven film focuses more on the action and violence. The Brave One zeroes in on the ethics of taking the law into your own hands, and what killing people in the name of justice does to your psyche. In this sense, Foster does splendidly as the tortured Erica, who at first struggles to survive within her own life after the attack. She realises that everything has changed and she has to change with it, and turns into a justice driven woman that has to break the rules to make things right, no matter the cost. Howard is equally impressive as the detective trying to keep everything together and get to the bottom of things as he battles his own demons. His bond with Erica is the heart of the film.
But as good as Howard is, this film is Foster's vehicle. It is Foster who leads the way from beginning to end. Neil Jordan successfully conveys every emotion from his cast for the audience to witness, and uses good camera tricks such as close-ups of Foster to express her pain. The object of the film isn't the violence, but more on the divide between right and wrong, and the line that Foster has to walk on between them, and Jordan does well in bringing the point across.
Something unexpected happens at the end of the film, which can be considered cool, as long as you suspend your disbelief for a moment. But this film is a real gem, and I think it's one of Jodie Foster's best work.
I'll end this review with a line quoted from Erica's neighbour Josai, played by Ene Oloja: "There are plenty of ways to die. But you have to figure out a way to live. Now, that's hard." (4/5)