Judge Jodie and Executioner
There have been plenty of revenge movies over the years, but the majority of them tend to focus on the act of revenge, the brutality of a vigilante seeking justice. "The Brave One" is different because whilst it still has that brutality it focuses more on the person, the victim who turns vigilante and how the act of revenge affects them. This makes it draw you into the character of Erica Bain as she becomes more and more caught up in seeking justice. Yet at the same time "The Brave One" has that element of the expected about it, the cop who ends up not only getting close to her but also suspecting something, but it's not the game of cat n mouse which usually exists in this type of movie but a case of intrigue. This and much more including a knock out performance from Jodie Foster makes "The Brave One" a different and above average vigilante movie.
Erica (Jodie Foster - Inside Man) and David (Naveen Andrews - Bride & Prejudice) are head over heels in love and preparing for their wedding. That is until they are attacked late one evening as they walked through Central Park. Battered Erica regains consciousness weeks later in hospital to discover that David was beaten to death. Her life destroyed Erica tries to rebuild it but struggles especially when she visits the police station and gets no help at all. Desperate for security she obtains a gun and this gun brings out a new persona someone who's no longer afraid, a vigilante who seeks to gain justice for what happened and battle the lawlessness she sees around her.
"The Brave One" starts in a stereotypical fashion as we meet loved up couple Erica and David who are preparing for their wedding and having established this loving couple we then get the attack which leaves Erica hospitalized and David dead. Now whilst the brutality of the attack is there it's not as in your face as you may expect and director Neil Jordan does a wonderful job of showing restraint when it comes to the visual aspect, not hiding away from the gruesome ferocity but not glamorizing it either, which is the same with the acts of violence through out the movie. Although having said that the scenes which cover the aftermath of the attack as Erica is taken into AE are surprisingly sensual as we see a parallel between a sex act and the hospital cutting away her clothes. In fact the hospital scene is surprising, clever, beautiful yet also shocking by being so unexpected.
Anyway that is just the opening of "The Brave One" which delivers depth from start to finish with the main depth is the journey of Erica as we watch her going from this glowing loved up woman to one who looks haunted, hiding herself behind an emotionless mask. The story makes the point that a victim doesn't recover from an assault such as this but becomes someone different and we watch as Erica unknowingly reinvents herself going from this scared woman to one who courts danger as a vigilante. And the catalyst of this is the purchase of a gun, a scene which speaks volumes because she is a scared woman but with the gun in her hand it steadies her, gives her power and makes her brave.
Of course "The Brave One" develops as we watch Erica go after those she sees as deserving of some sort of retribution, putting herself in danger purposefully to deal with them, be it on the subway or in a pimp's car. The clever thing is that whilst there is action and quite brutal action at that it is never just about the justice, it is about how it makes Erica feel, doing what she sees as something right. And of course this expectedly culminates with her getting up close to those who killed David and assaulted her, nothing less than you would expect but with an added twist which gives it a sort of ambiguity over what is right and wrong.
On top of this, the way Erica becomes this different person you also get the almost cliche aspect of Detective Mercer getting close to her. Now although a cliche concept seen in countless other vigilante movies it's not dealt with in a cliche way because Mercer is a multi-dimensional character who is intrigued by Erica. Yes there is an element of flirtation, a nice touch which never takes away from the main story but there is also the ambiguity in his character as he is after a man, a man he can't touch within the confines of the law but wishes he could. This relationship adds another layer to this fascinating story, this character study which makes you think deeper about how a victim becomes someone new.
Of course a big reason why "The Brave One" works is down to Jodie Foster who delivers a stunning performance taking us on this journey from being loved up, to a frightened victim and then on to this icy, brave vigilante. It's believable because the character has dimensions, she hides her secret well but not well enough that there isn't visible tension as she has to deal with talking on her radio show. Foster may not have been first choice but for me she was the best choice as is Terrence Howard as Detective Mercer who takes this cliche character and embraces his ambiguity. On one hand you have this law man, the detective who works within the confines of his job keeping things legal yet you sense that beneath the surface is a man who would want nothing more than to deliver some old fashioned justice. And together Foster and Howard work well with some tender chemistry, allowing you to feel that there could be something forming between them but with an ambiguity over whether it is chemistry or respect.
What this all boils down to is that "The Brave One" is a very good movie and one which delivers something different to your normal revenge/ vigilante movies. It still has all the elements you expect; the brutality and violence as we watch Erica deliver justice in her own way but it is all about how her character changes, how she doesn't recover from the violent assault which destroyed her life but became someone else.