Neil Jordan's somber The Brave One
is reflective movie about a victim's sense of dislocation and isolation from her own life following a harrowing trauma, which will strike a chord with a lot of people who have known violence. The Brave One
is also a provocative drama about the nature of justice, a theme explored endlessly in American movies that typically find law enforcement wanting. In Jordan's film, however, the conflict between instinctive vigilantism and legal protocols is approached with more deliberateness and complexity than usual. Finally, despite its seriousness of purpose, The Brave One
, to a certain extent, is drearily tethered to the old atrocity-and-revenge genre, bumping along to the familiar, Death Wish
-like rhythms of an avenger seeking successive conflicts with bad guys he or she can blow away.
Somewhat at cross-purposes, The Brave One
stars Jodie Foster in a shattering performance as Erica Bain, a popular essayist on a public radio station in New York. In love and engaged to David (Naveen Andrews), a doctor, Erica and her fiancé are brutally attacked one night by a gang of thugs. David is killed but Erica survives, only to find herself a stranger in her own skin, facing down her fears by shooting violent criminals.
With the city riveted by her anonymous actions, Erica becomes an object of curiosity for a police detective (an excellent Terrence Howard) disillusioned by his own struggles to protect the innocent from truly evil men. Jordan's previous films (The Crying Game
, Breakfast on Pluto
) resonate with The Brave One
's most interesting angle, i.e., that each of us possesses a hidden element in our identities that comes out in extreme circumstances, making us wonder who we really are. It's all excellent food for thought, but the film squanders much of its significance by thrusting Erica into numerous, outlandish situations in which her only alternative is to put a bullet in a bad guy. The result is a smart film tediously structured like a disposable B movie. --Tom Keogh