' Cinema Romantico: The Brave One

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Brave One

My God, Jodie Foster can act. In her new film, the revenge-minded "The Brave One", she re-proves this by dialing up the intensity and grounding the movie even when it threatens to become absurd.

Not more than a handful of minutes into the movie, as we're getting the obligatory sequences establishing her loving relationship with the boyfriend who must be brutally murdered and brutally murdered soon so we can get to the stuff glimpsed in the trailer, Foster's character makes a phone call to the boyfriend and asks, "What are you wearing?" Now, how many times has a movie character started a phone conversation in that way? A thousand and three? Isn't that just waaaay overdone? Horribly cliched? Yes, but somehow when Foster says it, and then also gets involved in the standard "characterization" conversations with the boyfriend about upcoming marriage plans, she sells the ever-holy hell out of it. When she goes to purchase the gun she needs to set things in motion she looks exactly like a frightened woman who's never owned a gun, let alone shot one, trying to buy a gun. And later, after she has blasted someone with that handgun, she goes out onto the street, yanks out a cigarette, and lights it. Any other actress - except for one, and you know who she is (we discussed her a few days ago) - and this scene comes off as utterly ridiculous and you laugh. But Foster convinces you and, well, you're a little scared.

"The Brave One" itself, however, is no more than "Taxi Driver" lite. Foster is Erica Bain who does an NPR-like radio show and loves New York City and everything about it. But after her aforementioned boyfriend is murdered by a group of thugs, and she winds up in a coma for three weeks from the same attack, she no longer feels safe in the city. She obtains the gun we discussed. She accidentally witnesses another murder and the murderer (and this, friends, is proof why cell phones are BAD) comes for her, she puts her gun to the test and begins to feels herself change into someone else entirely - the person whom the press calls the Vigilante.

The counterpoint to this is Detective Mercer, played fantastically in his own right by Terrence Howard with a very quiet authority (his scene at the start with the little girl is intense stuff). He is on the trail of this so-called Vigilante, but he also forms a friendship with Bain herself after he reveals himself to be a listener of her show and she interviews him.

Where the movie head froms here I will not say, but perhaps - perhaps not - you can guess. What I will say is that while being "Taxi Driver" lite it certainly is several steps above Charles Bronson's "Deathwish". The film is trying to provoke something in you, I think, about how just safe we are and of what precisely people are capable.

(Don't tell that to the couple seating next to me, though, who cheered every time Foster turned into the Vigilante and left - literally left the theater! - before the movie's conclusion. Apparently once people stopped getting shot their attention waned.)

"The Brave One" works for awhile, sort of, and due almost totally to Foster's turn. A lot of it not coming off merely as what critics would term a "genre picture" happens because of the moments we spend with Foster when she has only herself and not the screenplay to help the cause. But the end? The end seems to disprove whatever point the movie was trying to make. If the world is cruel and unforgiving and makes no sense then why....

Here's an anaology for you, and I apologize if it annoys anyone but it's college football season and I just can't help it. "The Brave One" is the 2001 Nebraska Football team. They were an okay squad, maybe slightly better than good, that somehow at the end of November was undefeated and ranked #2. This was because of one brilliant player, our Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Eric Crouch. He made everything around him shine a little bit brighter than it probably had any right to and masked all the deficincies. But even his immense skill couldn't keep the end of that season from falling to pieces.

Foster makes "The Brave One" shine for more of its running time than you would think possible but in the end.....

1 comment:

Rory Larry said...

I concur makes or breaks the film (in past she has broken a film) but I would disagree that this is Taxi Driver lite. I think each film has its own angle. And I can only assume you intentionally picked "Taxi Driver" the film that introduced us to the actress you are now praising, because I don't believe in a coincidence that big.