The Brave One (Warner Bros., R)

film_brave-oneAt times, one begins to wonder whether there's something more to The Brave One than just a schlocky revenge thriller, as the film infrequently suggests it might be a lament toward the dying American city.

 

 

 

 

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Jodie Foster's appeal has always evaded me. I sometimes wonder if someone didn't start a rumor that she was one of America's finest actresses and everyone bought it. She's won two Best Actress Oscars (for the terribly dated The Accused and overly praised The Silence of the Lambs), but she's never managed to convince me that she's anything worth thinking twice about. Her choosiness of roles is well documented, but how can I believe she isn't in dire need of paying bills with Panic Room, Flightplan, and, now, The Brave One? Each of her roles fits the now-expected Foster signature role: strong woman, in distress, and without a male romantic lead. In Neil Jordan's The Brave One, Foster loses her oh-so-perfect boyfriend (Naveen Andrews) in a brutal attack in Central Park that leaves her emotionally and physically wounded. Thus begins what I'm having trouble distinguishing between a remake of Death Wish with Foster as Charles Bronson and an actual film.

Jordan has always been a notable director, ever since audiences flocked to The Crying Game some 15 years ago. He's never fully executed his promise after The Crying Game, though I've always been personally fond of The Butcher Boy. Here, The Brave One is to Neil Jordan as The Black Dahlia was to Brian De Palma: a contrived Hollywood thriller whose one or two crane shots remind us that the person behind the camera used to be a great director. At times, one begins to wonder whether there's something more to The Brave One than just a schlocky revenge thriller, as the film infrequently suggests it might be a lament toward the dying American city.

Foster plays Erica, who hosts her own whispery-voiced radio program about the sounds of New York City. She walks around town with a microphone, picking up and examining the noises most New Yorkers take for granted. There's very little to be considered subtext with this, as the film opens with Erica directly asking the questions that we're meant to ponder, and as the film turns from a film about a city to a film about Jodie Foster killing bad people, these questions become as quietly ambient as the tape decks Erica uses to fuel her show. Then there's Terrence Howard, flaccid and boring as a police officer searching for a higher form of justice than Foster seems to be supplying NYC. Howard and Foster frequently cross paths, developing a curious, but not romantic, interest in one another (in addition to being a Jodie Foster film, this is a Hollywood film where we're still uncomfortable seeing a black person and white person kiss onscreen).

I can almost see Foster, humorless as she always seems to be, agreeing to star in this almost-disaster. On one level, I can see how this would require her to recycle her performances from Flightplan and Panic Room, easily. On another, I can see how Foster would imagine that The Brave One exuded some cultural statement about women in society. And afterward, I can picture her cringing at what became of the film, one of those "Oh, that's what you were trying to do" moments that makes the mistake so much clearer. Then again, Foster already has her two Academy Awards, and can you blame a girl for just needing to pay the bills? | Joe Bowman

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