BY PAMELA FOOHEY
The Brave One
Director: Neil Jordan
Starring: Jodie Foster, Terrence Howard
“Shocking” when used to describe a psychological thriller like “The Brave One” is usually interpreted positively. “The Brave One” was shocking, shockingly gruesome, ludicrous, and ultimately pointless.
Erica Bane (Jodie Foster), a content radio show host preparing to marry the love of her life, is irrevocably changed one night when she and her fiancé (Naveen Andrews, best known for his role as Sayid in “LOST”) are viciously attacked in Central Park. The brutal, random attack leaves her fiancé dead. Although Erica recovers from her horrific physical injuries, psychologically, she dies too. What emerges is a woman devastated by loss and afraid of the city she once walked the streets of to find inspiration for her show aptly called “Street Walk.”
Her new self buys a gun off the street. With gun in hand, she at first finds herself in and later puts herself in situations that seem to necessitate its use. She kills and kills and kills, becoming known throughout the city as the anonymous vigilante, praised by some for doing justice where the police will not (or cannot) act, and denounced by others for becoming a law unto herself.
NYPD detective Sean Mercer (Terrence Howard) becomes determined to catch this vigilante, at first believing the killer to be a man with a gun, but later realizing the man with a gun may be woman with a grudge. As he closes in on Erica, she begins to question the morality of her vengeful acts, while Mercer begins to question his original view of the acts of that man with a gun as irrefutably wrong.
With a plot like that, “The Brave One” could have been a masterful psychological thriller. Despite Foster’s and Howard’s captivating performances, “The Brave One” turned out more like ridiculous revenge porn trash splattered with random social commentary. The main problem is “The Brave One” tries to do too much. It is an action flick, a revenge story, an existential journey, and a commentary about morality, all at once, and it fails in most respects. If it had focused on Erica and Mercer’s existential journeys, it may have been redeemed.
Foster gives a captivating performance, bringing depth to Erica, and gaining sympathy from her audience. It is the moments when Erica is desperately searching for a reason to keep living that viewers catch a glimpse of the masterpiece “The Brave One” could have been.
But then her character finds herself in one outrageous situation after another. No one, not even people living in New York during the height of its dangerousness, find themselves in mortal peril every time they step out of their apartments. This surreal world destroys the credibility Foster builds at the beginning, making Foster seem too good for the film. Upon this backdrop, “The Brave One” intersperses snapshots of Erica’s relationship with her dead fiancé, implausibly silly glimpses that do not fit with the vengeful killer that Erica becomes by the end.
Howard too gives a captivating performance, bringing a similar depth and intrigue to Mercer. But not even Howard’s masterful portrayal of Mercer and his magnetic interactions with Foster can save “The Brave One” from the violent potboiler it becomes.
“The Brave One,” while entertaining at points, will leave you laughing in the end, which, most certainly, was not its intent, which only will make you laugh harder.
Rating: * *