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Review

‘Brave One’ draws mixed feelings from reviewers

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September 21, 2007

With the release of “The Brave One,” there’s inevitably going to be much discussion about how star Jodie Foster built her career on similar roles of emotional wrecks-turned-take-charge heroines in movies like “Flightplan” and “The Silence of the Lambs.”

But what’s truly important is how she manages to do a knockout job with each performance, a tradition of playing women who try to heroically ditch their emotional baggage that continues with “The Brave One.”

Foster plays Erica Bain, a radio show host who spins sentimental tales about New York City’s fading glory. But she gets a big dose of the Big Apple’s bad side one night, after a group of muggers beat her fiancé to death and do a nasty number on her as well. Erica emerges from the incident a changed woman, afraid to step foot out of her apartment and so afraid of the world around her that she illegally buys a gun for protection.

One night, though, she ends up using her newly bought piece to blast away a homicidal creep — an action that both repels and intrigues her.

As Erica finds herself taking out the scum of the city sleazebag by sleazebag, she tries coming to terms with the monster she’s slowly becoming, all while a detective (Terrence Howard) begins to pick up the trail of her string of vigilante killings.

It’s hard to find a really good movie with a strong heroine at its core, one that doesn’t feature her as a superhuman vixen (a la “Ultraviolet”) or really oversimplifies her background (a la “Enough”).

But “The Brave One” gets things right by presenting its protagonist as a woman who’s torn between doing a job that the city’s police seem to be falling behind on and curbing her newfound bloodlust before it spirals out of control. Erica’s inner conflicts are the heart and soul of this film’s sense of dramatics, focusing more upon her damaged psyche than on turning the story into a two-hour trip to the shooting gallery.

One of the most talented actresses out there, Foster does an admirable job of taking on her character and not making her instantly likable due to her situation, purposefully making the process difficult with Erica’s slowly loosening grip on the idea of justice to great effect.

Here to parallel Erica to a lesser extreme is the great Terrence Howard, whose detective character is also frustrated over having to obey the law even though his gut instincts are telling him otherwise in certain cases.

Aside from a sort of chintzy finale, the flurry of emotions swirling within “The Brave One” is guided almost perfectly by director Neil Jordan, who’s proven himself an expert at handling delicate, potentially dull stories amazingly with movies like “The Crying Game” and “Interview with the Vampire.”

It’s not often that you get to see an action movie with something to say, but “The Brave One” does a near-perfect job of injecting some brains to go behind the bloodshed.

A.J. Hakari is a student at UW-River Falls.