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BRAVE ONE, THE (director: Neil Jordan; screenwriters: Roderick Taylor/Bruce A. Taylor/Cynthia Mort/based on a story by the Taylors; cinematographer: Philippe Rousselot; editor: Tony Lawson; music: Dario Marianelli; cast: Jodie Foster (Erica Bain), Terrence Howard (Detective Sean Mercer), Naveen Andrews (David Kirmani), Nicky Katt (Detective Vitale), Mary Steenburgen (Carol), Larry Fessenden (Sandy Combs), Gordon MacDonald (Murrow), Zoe Kravitz (Chloe); Runtime: 122; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Joel Silver/Susan Downey; Warner Brothers Pictures; 2007)
“Got the exploitation part right but couldn’t get much else right.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Talented filmmaker Neil Jordan (“The Butcher Boy”/”In Dreams”/”The End of the Affair”) helms this frustratingly amoral urban drama that begs comparisons with Death Wish, Ms .45 and Taxi Driver, but is done in by losing any grip on reality with its underdeveloped story and by not coming up with a literate argument over the questions it raises about the crime epidemic in America. It sensationalizes a violent NYC crime and comes up with a revenge story offering the idea that anyone can be a killer if pushed beyond their limits, even those who believe in the law and not in vigilante justice, females, liberals, effete public radio hosts or listeners and honest cops.

It’s based on a story by the father-and-son team of Rod and Burton Taylor, who also serve up the screenplay with Cynthia Mort. Any sensible debate over what is right or wrong about the law fails to materialize, as this well-acted and stylishly looking film eschews sensibility by instead serving up a far-fetched take on urban crime that plays to the emotions as they are manipulated. There was nothing brave about the vigilante heroine in this half arty and half mainstream exploitation flick. She merely cashes in on the fears and impotence of city dwellers fed up with your basic everyday street crime and offers irrational solutions to their problems that would never work ethically or realistically except in a movie like this that got the exploitation part right but couldn’t get much else right.

Jodie Foster plays smooth talking New York talk radio DJ Erica Bain; she’s a nostalgic storyteller who waxes poetic about the city she loves. One night she walks with her Mr. Perfect male nurse fianc√© David Kirmani (Naveen Andrews) and their dog through Stranger’s Gate in Central Park and three vicious tattooed and bandanna’d Hispanic thugs mug them, steal their dog, and mercilessly pummel the helpless couple. David dies and she survives the terrible beating, coming out of her three week coma paralyzed with fear. When the police don’t respond with any hope of apprehending the thugs and she’s fearful of now walking the city streets (which is not good for someone who hosts a show called “Street Walk”), she buys an illegal 9-millimeter Glock and overnight becomes an urban vigilante when she kills the white holdup killer (Larry Fessenden, indie director) of his estranged Vietnamese wife in her local bodega, two vicious black muggers of an iPod on a subway car who threaten Erica with a knife and rape, a bad dude pimp who is holding a young prostitute hostage in his car, and a known dangerous racketeer who killed his wife when she was set to testify against him. There’s no doubt all those killed by the slender Erica were bad hombres but, one thing is certain, this is not the way to stop the crime wave in NYC or the way someone acts in a civilized society. Soon dedicated and efficient Detective Sean Mercer (Terrence Howard), who seems to be everywhere investigating murders, becomes involved with Erica when he agrees to be interviewed for her radio show after her vigilante murders are investigated by him and his comic relief partner (Nicky Katt). Mercer acts as Erica’s foil and new romantic interest, as they discuss the law and he defends carrying it out to the letter no matter how faulty it is. This view suddenly changes when the good guy moral cop learns she’s the vigilante trying to make a wrong right. In the preposterous climax, that not only strains credibility but is appalling in how easily it excuses vigilantes and cops who coverup crimes for their buddies, Detective Mercer takes one for the team of so-called good guys who conveniently disregard the law when it gets in the way of their agenda. It’s a film that leaves you with an ugly feeling, as everyone has their humanity devalued by such outrageous shenanigans and by its cowardly crowd-pleasing endorsement of vigilantism as a viable solution to a real urban problem.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”