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Overall Rating

Awesome: 10.13%
Worth A Look35.44%
Average: 22.78%
Pretty Bad: 18.99%
Total Crap: 12.66%

8 reviews, 31 user ratings

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Brave One, The
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by Eugene Novikov

"Na na na na na na na na Batman! Batman! Batman!"
4 stars

On the strength of THE BRAVE ONE, Neil Jordan should get the chance to replace Christopher Nolan on the BATMAN franchise.

What? You don't believe me? Think that's film critic snark, do you? Well, snark's got nothing to do with it. It's not that The Brave One is something unexpected from high-brow genius Jordan -- an intimate, thoughtful character drama, pulled off with the sort of elegance you would expect from one of our most gifted stylists. But the extent to which Jordan allows it to be a vigilante movie, really and truly, with the attendant casual improbabilities and melodramatic turns, is stunning -- and shares more with the comic book genre than with either Jordan's or Jodie Foster's ouvre. Like M. Night Shyamalan's Unbreakable before it, The Brave One takes the genre's conventions (this time with a focus on the judge-jury-and-executioner hero -- think Batman and The Punisher -- rather than one endowed with superpowers) and shifts them to semi-plausibly occupy the world we know.

It may seem strange to approach a film so concerned with -- and smart about -- law, justice, and the nature of fear from this angle. But for someone who has dedicated much of his writing lately to the quixotic defense of what some cynically term "genre films" (a moniker I've accepted, if only to move the conversation forward), something like The Brave One is a godsend: living proof that talented filmmakers can take these "escapist" plots and turn them into something special. Jordan has managed to create something exciting, haunting and profound.

Jordan's protagonist Erica Bain (rhymes with "Bruce Wayne") hosts a cult radio show called "Streetwalk" in which she plays the sounds she records while traversing the streets of New York with a tape deck and a microphone and adds contemplative, wistful ruminations. After she is brutally attacked, and her fiancé murdered, in an irrational crime of rage, the program becomes an outlet to share her disbelief at her newfound fear of the city she once loved and affectionately called home. Meanwhile, she takes to prowling the less posh parts of New York and interrupting violent crimes by killing the perps -- an activity that soon earns her anonymous fame in the local papers and a smart, upright police detective (Terrence Howard) on her tail.

The film feels not unlike what we hear of "Streetwalk" -- a sad, quiet mood piece that starts writhing and mutating once tragedy befalls its hero. The opening scenes are content with calm, measured verisimilitude -- the banter between Bain (Foster) and her lover David (Naveen Andrews) is realistic and touching, the talk of two smart people who know every inch of each other. Jordan doesn't break stride in depicting the attack, which he films with an appropriately harrowing -- if still tactful -- forthrightness. It is immediately afterward, in a heartbreaking montage juxtaposing the desperate emergency room attempts to save David's life with the lingering memory of the two making love, that Jordan enters the trickier realm of Erica's horrorstruck, damaged mind. His camera loses its solid footing and starts swimming, undulating across the sets and locations; the narrative starts operating under a sort of dream logic, the perspective constantly shifting (a subplot about an unrelated murder gets an inordinate amount of screentime) and weird coincidences gradually starting to dominate. The film's rhythm is so hypnotic that it became difficult to stay actively engaged with Jordan's ideas as he does his best to lull you into a trance.

Bain's vengeful exploits aren't the stuff of naturalistic arthouse drama. Her stunts are increasingly daring and increasingly unlikely -- I doubt that even someone looking for trouble can get embroiled in so many violent crimes in the span of a few days. But in a truly gutsy move, Jordan and his trio of screenwriters embrace the improbability of the narrative progression, purposely sensationalizing the events. When Bain's deeds gain notoriety and she starts maintaining what is essentially a secret identity (she repeatedly muses that what happened to her turned her into a different person, a stranger even to herself), we get the sense that the filmmakers are toying with genre conventions, and doing so with surprising respect.

The Brave One is ultimately about the relationship between law and justice, and how the integrity of the former threatens and is threatened by the satisfaction the latter offers. Jodie Foster gives her best performance in years, tough and vulnerable; her anger and frustration is heartbreaking. But the movie is more remarkable for its style, and its uncompromising, fully committed treatment of its story. It's Jordan's most interesting film since The Butcher Boy.

(Reprinted from

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originally posted: 09/15/07 00:44:24
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/22/17 morris campbell jodies got a gun not bad 4 stars
11/11/13 Monday Morning Hey Jody, show us your dick. 3 stars
10/12/09 Jeff Wilder Way more intelligence here than in most revenge films. 4 stars
4/05/09 Monday Morning I love happy endings - dogs live and slimebags die. 4 stars
9/08/08 Carol Durbin Not her best flick, kinda disappointing. 3 stars
8/15/08 Melissa Great movie. Makes you watch your back when you are at night. Foster is one tough lady! 5 stars
8/11/08 mr.mike Initially avoids unconvincing detours , then drives head-on into them. 3 stars
7/06/08 Ron Patterson Fantastic movie, great suspense all the way. Great ending! 5 stars
6/22/08 TAB Loved the Movie 5 stars
3/19/08 Leah Jodie is Great at everything she does 4 stars
3/02/08 Nanci Torres I love all her movies, great acting 5 stars
2/11/08 Matt Nothing new here, but Foster alone makes it memorable. Vaguely disappointing 3 stars
2/06/08 action movie fan very good death wish themed woman gets even after mugging-ambiguous and thoughtful 4 stars
12/13/07 William Goss Foster rises above mopey, morally muddled, and just unoriginal vigilante drama. 3 stars
11/16/07 anitamich I thought this movie was top notch! Not for the squeamish. Keeps your mind occupied. 5 stars
10/27/07 tracey chambers long, boring and I didnt care one way or another about her. 2 stars
9/28/07 Paul kersey Wait!! your stealing my movie 1 stars
9/27/07 The dude This movie is horrible i dont kno y anyone of u would like this rip off of death wish 1 stars
9/25/07 Ole Man Bourbon Well-made, compelling at times, but kinda silly 4 stars
9/25/07 wizred Good acting, descent directing, terrible script 2 stars
9/19/07 HarryCallahan Feminist Propaganda wankfest. 1 stars
9/18/07 texas I was underwhelmed by the plot (unbelievable) and was never suspended in disbelief. 3 stars
9/17/07 Hoosierchick The ending is a cheat but TH and JF interaction is great 4 stars
9/17/07 Private Its themes don't linger as they should but Foster is terrific. 4 stars
9/16/07 rebirthgil A felt that The Brave One was a unique action thriller, and it was also a provocative one. 4 stars
9/16/07 bullit16 I love Jodie Foster, but this was just not good 2 stars
9/15/07 Jason R It was really good. The acting was great and I really enjoyed it. 5 stars
9/15/07 Dark Enchantress amazing movie! The critics never appreciate good movies! 5 stars
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  14-Sep-2007 (R)
  DVD: 05-Feb-2008



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