September 20, 2007

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The Brave One (R)
Jodie Foster is one seriously cheesed public radio show host in The Brave One, yet another movie about the violent joys of vengeance.

Erica (Foster) is a full-of-her-own-brilliance host of a deeply pretentious radio show in New York City. Rounding out her seemingly perfect life is her doctor fiancé David (Naveen Andrews, who despite being painfully hot on Lost has absolutely zero chemistry with Foster here). They are full of unconvincing engaged-couple glee and are all but skipping during their walk through the park when they happen upon a group of hooligans. Give us back our German Shepard, say Erica and David. Punch punch kick, say the hooligans. Erica is knocked (rather brutally) unconscious and when she comes to she finds herself heavily scarred and David dead.

Naturally, Erica is afraid to return to the outside world. When she finally is able to make it out of her apartment, one of her early chores is to buy a gun (illegally, since the legal method would take too long). Carrying her gun and full of frightened-squirrel nerves, Erica winds up in yet another situation fraught with violence — a convenience store robbery/domestic dispute. When the gun-wielding perpetrator turns on her, Erica whips out her loud new bodyguard and blows him away.

Though easily arguable as self-defense, the incident shakes Erica up and she grabs the security tape and runs off. Is it the sense of security the gun gives her or the desire to strike back at the baddies of the world that keeps her poking into dangerous places at night? Days after the convenience store shooting, she’s sitting in a subway car when danger finds her again.

We in the audience aren’t the only ones who see the connection between the two events. NYPD Detective Mercer (Terrence Howard) matches up the bullets and figures he’s looking for one angry dude. Coincidentally, it’s at the second shooting that Mercer meets Erica in person. A fan of her show, he saw her when she was unconscious in the hospital but he’s eager to get to know the awake Erica. Could it be because he suspects she has some role in the crimes?

Jodie Foster is arguably a better actress than Kevin Bacon but her grief-stricken, shaken-to-the-core yuppie isn’t nearly as convincing or interesting as his was in the recent Death Sentence. Scenes of her warming to the violence that has become part of her new, post-victim personality are strained and weird and so full of actory twitches (no, go ahead, press your lips into a tight little line again; maybe we didn’t catch it the first 100 times) that they take you out of the suspense that the movie is trying to build. Or, heck, maybe the movie isn’t trying to build suspense. Maybe it’s purposefully one long slog through woman-gets-revenge scenes punctuated by overly wordy radio-show narration about “what crime does to you.”

Howard’s performance is better than this but not much. I believe what they are going for with his character is “ethical man who finds his convictions challenged.” But the choppy nature of the tale seems less “moral dilemma” and more “shoddy story-telling.” Even he seems occasionally confused about what his motivation is in a scene.

There’s a lot of gunplay and assorted violence in this movie but the real killer here is the movie’s length. The Brave One is not subtle about where it’s going, so it’s aggravating that it takes its time getting there. Maybe if they cut out half the scenes of Foster staring glassy-eyed at herself in the mirror the movie could bring itself down to a reasonable length (I’m thinking 85 minutes) and find a little much-needed energy. C

Rated R for strong violence, language and some sexuality. Directed by Neil Jordan and written by Roderick Taylor, Bruce A. Taylor and Cynthia Mort, The Brave One is two hours and two minutes long and is distributed in wide release by Warner Bros.