Bul­lets over Broad­way

THE BRAVE ONE Di­rected by Neil Jor­dan. Star­ring Jodie Fos­ter, Ter­rence Howard, Naveen An­drews, Nicky Katt, Mary Steen­bur­gen 16 cert, gen re­lease, 122 min

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews - MICHAEL DWYER

ONE OF Neil Jor­dan’s rare ven­tures into main­stream Hol­ly­wood stu­dio pro­duc­tion, The Brave One finds him in the com­pany of Jodie Fos­ter as she con­tin­ues her pen­chant for ac­tion roles af­ter Panic Room and Flight­plan, and Joel Sil­ver, the pro­ducer of the first two Die Hard movies, the Ma­trix tril­ogy and the four Lethal Weapon pic­tures.

Fos­ter plays Erica Bain, a Man­hat­tan pub­lic ra­dio pre­sen­ter who pref­aces her show with ref­er­ences to New York as “the safest big city in the world”. Erica’s out­look on life – and the city – is changed ut­terly when she and her fi­ance (Naveen An­drews) are bru­tally at­tacked by three thugs in Cen­tral Park.

Erica emerges from a coma, ini­tially afraid to go out­doors. Al­though her phys­i­cal wounds heal, she re­mains emo­tion­ally scarred. Her fear is chan­nelled into anger and frus­tra­tion when it seems un­likely that the as­sailants will be brought to jus­tice.

“There are plenty of ways to die,” a philo­soph­i­cal neigh­bour tells her. “You need to find a way to live again.” Erica opts to live again by killing crim­i­nals. She buys a gun and gains a re­newed sense of em­pow­er­ment when she takes to the streets as a vig­i­lante.

Jor­dan’s stag­ing of the hor­rific early at­tack is ar­rest­ing, and The Brave One goes be­yond the sim­plis­tic, blood­thirsty na­ture of such 1970s movies as Death Wish when Erica’s ra­dio show op­er­ates as a phone-in fo­rum to de­bate the is­sue of vig­i­lan­tism. How­ever, it ul­ti­mately raises more ques­tions than it an­swers, and the screen­play is bogged down in un­likely con­trivances.

The cen­tral re­la­tion­ship is un­con­vinc­ingly forged be­tween Erica and a di­vorced de­tec­tive, played by Ter­rence Howard, de­spite the com­mit­ted per­for­mances of both fine ac­tors. In fact, Fos­ter proves much more ef­fec­tive in scenes where she is on her own and her gritty screen pres­ence is com­mand­ing.

For a wo­man who ap­par­ently lived for four decades in the city with­out be­ing af­fected by crime, Erica now finds it ev­ery­where she goes on her noc­tur­nal gun-tot­ing for­ays: in a con­ve­nience store, on the sub­way, on the streets. This sce­nario might have been more ap­pro­pri­ate for a story set in 1970s New York, in the hey­day of the vig­i­lante movie, rather than in the cleaned-up, com­par­a­tively much safer place it is to­day.

Writer Rod­er­ick Tay­lor, who mined vig­i­lan­tism as a theme 25 years ago in the for­get­table The Star Cham­ber, col­lab­o­rated on the screen­play with his son Bruce A Tay­lor. TV writer Cyn­thia Mort was hired “to add a fe­male voice”.

This is Jor­dan’s 15th fea­ture film, and only the third (af­ter We’re No An­gels and In­ter­view with the Vam­pire) on which he does not have a screen­play credit. It clearly is not one of his more per­sonal projects, even though there a few Jor­dan mo­tifs such as char­ac­ters not be­ing what they seem or cross­ing moral bound­aries.

Given the prob­lem is in the plot­ting of The Brave One, it is ironic that Jor­dan has crafted far more out­landish sce­nar­ios in his orig­i­nal screen­plays (such as The Cry­ing Game) and his col­lab­o­ra­tions with Pa­trick McCabe (The Butcher Boy and Break­fast on Pluto), and with such con­fi­dence and imag­i­na­tion that they prompted and sus­tained the viewer’s will­ing sus­pen­sion of dis­be­lief.

Tak­ing it to the streets: Jodie hits back

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