Friday, September 14, 2007

THE BRAVE ONE: Foster In Charge

THE BRAVE ONE (action thriller)

Cast: Jodie Foster, Terrence Howard, Naveeen Andrews, Mary Steenburgen
Director: Neil Jordan
Time: 122 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

PREAMBLE: After the "Death Wish" series of the 70s, vigilante movies have become run-of-the-mill and boring. The genre had been so extensively exploited by film-makers all over the world that viewers became wary of them. You can imagine my feelings of foreboding when I sat through the first half-an-hour of "The Brave One", expecting Jodie Foster to turn into a female version of Charles Bronson - and start shooting down the bad guys in New York City. It would be like 'The Accused meets Death Wish', so to speak.
However, I was pleasantly surprised. Foster gives her avenging Dark Angel a new dimension - the realisation that even you and I can become judge, jury and executioner when we are faced with certain conditions and circumstances. And this scares the hell out of me...

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Foster is Erica Bain, a New York City radio talk-show host who chats about life in 'the safest big city in the world'. One night, while strolling in Central Park with her fiance, David (Naveen Andrews of TV's 'Lost'), they are brutally attacked by a gang of muggers. David is killed and Erica is hospitalised with critical injuries.
When Erica finally pulls through and is discharged, she is not consumed by the need for revenge. She is completely overcome by fear. The city she has known and loved all her life now terrifies her. She jumps at shadows and is always looking behind her back. As a sensible woman, she realises that she must conquer her fears if she is to survive and continue working. Like many people in her condition, she buys a gun - without even knowing how to use it. Erica, however, is a fast learner. When she witnesses a robbery and finds her life in danger, she does not hesitate to use her weapon. And she is surprised to discover that her hands did not shake as she had expected them to. Soon, news of a vigilante shooter spreads and police detective Sean Mercer (Terrence Howard) finds another case on his plate besides the mugging incident involving Erica and David. Now, as Sean and Erica team up to track down the 'vigilante', a bond develops between them...

HIGHS & LOWS: Directed by Neil Jordan, "The Brave One" explores the psyche and soul of a victim of brutality and tragedy. This is right up Foster's alley as she has played so many such characters before. Jordan lingers the camera over her lithe body and injured face, trying to make us sympathise with her and her actions. We also root for Howard's embattled cop as he agonises over another case where the hands of the law are tied. Cops, after all, are human too and they can also be pushed to go beyond the limit.
Jordan portrays New York as a dark and dank metropolitan like Batman's Gotham City where we expect weirdoes to show up in every corner. Still, the screenplay (by Roderick and Bruce Taylor and Cynthia Mort) does not glorify Erica's deeds. It shows her as the victim of circumstances. The ending may appear rather far-fetched, giving a new meaning to the term 'cop-out' as it were. However, with Foster as the protagonist, it somehow feels justified.

THE LOWDOWN: Yes, this is Foster's vehicle and as the titular character, she drives the movie along as she did in "Silence Of The Lambs". Only that she is no longer the 'lamb' here.


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