The Brave One

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

            Jodie Foster aside, “The Brave One” asks too many tough questions without suggesting answers. But here’s the rub: you can’t put Jodie Foster aside, not even for a second. When she is involved in a project, it is clear she is not just the star, but the architect. She is asking big questions deliberately to make us think. This time she’s asking us to think about guns and vengeance. While director Neil Jordan’s scene cuts are innovative, the supporting cast good, and the production fine, the fingerprints are unmistakable; this is Jodie Foster’s movie.

            Foster is at that wonderful age when experience begins to show on her face. She’s not just a bright kid any more; she’s an intelligent woman who knows what’s important to her in life. You can see it in the roles she picks, and in the emotion she packs into a slight grimace or a smirk. So let’s look at the premise and the lessons offered. They start with love.

            Erica Bane (Jodie Foster) and Naveen Andrews (David Kirmani) have chosen their wedding invitations. He is a doctor; she is a talk show host whose specialty is roaming through her memories of the New York she loves. She has no family; he has a mother they both love. Too good to be true? You bet. It ends in a dark park tunnel where David is killed by thugs and Erica is beaten to pulp. It is dark and frightening.

            Foster’s first question, I think, is “What happens to the survivor when the person she loves is randomly brutalized and murdered for no reason? One part of the legacy is fear. A strong person has become afraid. “It’s terrible to fear the place you once loved.” The feeble police response emboldens her. She will buy a gun illegally and right now. Is the gun for defense or revenge?

            The answer starts to unfold in a convenience store robbery where she uses it in unexpected self-defense; immediately after, she discovers “It is astonishing to find that inside you there is a stranger.” Switching from defense to justice and then to revenge, the newly minted vigilante asks “Why isn’t anyone stopping me?” Detective Sean Mercer (a thoughtful Terrence Howard) is out to do just that, but not before he and Erica form a genuinely interesting bond.

            They talk periodically and quietly in the midst of her mission and his search and it is here that the questions of random violence and vengeance are explored, not necessarily convincingly so. The question that lingers: what part of a person can possibly survive and in what altered state when a person much loved is destroyed for no reason by low life thugs? The answer comes in a sentimental ending that feels like cheating at the end of the test. No strong answers to the questions asked of the audience. And yet Jodie Foster’s performance is still worth the trip.

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