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The Brave One (2007)

The Brave One. Feature film. (2007, 120 mins) IMDB

...Women don't play vigilantes, but they do if you're Jodie Foster...

W

e meet Erica Bain in NYC. She works as a radio broadcaster giving odd reports on the sounds and look of the city. She has a fiancé and a dog. Life is good.

One hot summer night, she, her husband-to-be and their German Shepard go for a walk in Central Park. They talk about the wedding plans and play fetch with the dog until the dog goes missing. Through one of those upside down, U-shaped tunnels under a bridge they spot their dog and enter. The dog is held by a thug and he's not alone. In no time, three thugs beat the hell out of her and Mr. Big until she goes unconscious. This is the inciting incident. This moment changes her life.

We see her being attended to in an hospital ER. She is covered in blood. Attendants cut away her clothes. Since it's Jodie Foster, we know she's going to live. Not so for him. There is no frantic attempts to save his life. We assume he died before it was even possible.

When she comes out of the hospital, he life is never the same. The three thugs are on the loose. She has no one to talk to. She doesn't know what to do because the city she felt safe in is now a torture. It's a place of evil and threat and death.

When she enters a gun shop, she discovers it would take thirty days before she can legally by a pistol. Fortunately for her an Asian type overhears her request and helps her out when they meet up outside. In no time she has an automatic 9mm pistol with all the cartridges she needs. Life has certainly changed for her. Act II has started. Note: our purveyor of fine handguns hands her a box of cartridges and referred to them as bullets. I heard he sound of a gong when he said it.

Wandering, sleep-deprived, she enters a family-owned and run corner store where she witnesses a murder. A man walks in, shouts at a woman behind the counter and kills her. He's about to leave when he notices Erica and there's a stalking around aisles of this store. He ends up dead and she's invigorated.

That's killing one. Next it's a subway ride. Again late at night so there's only so many witnesses. Two thugs accost a man about his music then they attack two other people. At the next stop everybody is off the car except for her and the two thugs. They accost her. Pull a knife and it's this moment that could have been done better. We know what she's going to do. She has a gun and she's going to pull it out and kill these two guys. The scene plays slowly, but it's too rushed. Jordan could have milked it further.

Have I mentioned the detective? Since there are killings, the police have to get involved and the character of note is played by Terrence Howard. We see him in the hospital and he sees our hero, but there is no real connection because she's unconscious. Next he's investigating the murders. Next he's being interviewed by this woman. Next they are friends and maybe on the verge of being lovers. The relationship slowly evolves. As it evolves, he gets closer and closer to the truth about her involvement in what has happened.

She kills one in a store, two in a subway train, then another in a car. She isn't going to stop and the killers of her fiancé are nowhere in sight.

We know were this movie will end but do we? Three big clues. Erica smokes during many early scenes. Smoking is a symbol that says: bad character. She's going to get it. Second, the viewing and evidence of each killing isn't murder, but arguably self-defence. At least in the US way of thinking. Finally, this is Jodie Foster playing the lead role. She plays the hero and savour type, not the criminal or heavy. Don't believe me. Watch SILENCE OF THE LAMBS or THE PANIC ROOM or FLIGHT PLAN.

So we have Erica getting out of hand killing people and the detective hot on her heals. And we're getting closer to the 120 min mark so something has to change. And it does. During the inciting incidence, during the attack, one of the thugs stole a ring. The ring was pawned and the police recovered it. Enter Erica to ID the man. She sees five faces and knows the third man was one of the three at the scene, but instead of saying, yes, that's him, she says no and goes out the door to track him down and kill him and she does. Along with the two others.

Our detective hero knows she's behind the murders and shows up at the scene, but instead of stopping her and arresting her, he helps he kill the third man. He has figured out a way to pin all the killings on the original three thugs and she goes along with it and goes free.

While there was a time in the movie where it's debatable about her actions--murder versus self-defence, by the later part of the second act she crosses the line and it's entirely clear she's a vigilante and killer. A murderer yet the movie's ending says, so what. Live long and prosper.

In the features of the DVD, Foster says it's a movie against the use of guns. I don't see that. She wanted revenge for the loss of her fiancé and her beating and she got it without any punishment. How is that a condemnation against guns? Not sure.

In watching Foster, I was amazed at how young she looked. It was as if she were ten to fifteen years younger. Quite a contrast to her look in PANIC ROOM and FLIGHT PLAN. What gives? Vanity? Film audience norms? I'm not sure but something was done. The hair, make-up, plastic surgery, what?

This movie is an example of a gender twist. If instead of a woman out for vengeance, it was a man, everybody would have said: been there, done that, yadda-yadda. But throw in woman and it's a different game.

Posted 2009/01/20 at 18h38ET in Movie Commentary.

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