The Brave One

Warner Bros. Entertainment

Review in a Hurry:  Thoughtful action picture? Meditation on grieving? The Brave One tries to be both but just misses its target, despite the presence of a magnetic Jodie Foster.

The Bigger Picture:  The Brave One would be an appropriate guide to recovering from the death of a significant other—if one of the Kübler-Ross five stages of grief involved killing every bad guy within a two-mile radius. When public radio personality Erica Bain (Foster) loses her fiancé in a brutal attack in Central Park, her response is typical—she fears going outdoors, resumes a smoking habit and pulls down the shades. It even seems natural that she'd buy a gun, and she does—presumably for protection.

Turns out, the bad guys need protection from her. Erica and her 9 mm go looking for trouble, and on her trail are Detectives Mercer and Vitale (played respectively by Terrence Howard and a dryly funny Nicky Katt). Mercer is familiar with Bain's own case and befriends her, not realizing this fragile blond woman is the sought-after vigilante.

This could be a pretty pulpy plot, and it's obvious director Neil Jordan wanted to dial down any histrionics. He doesn't want us to enjoy Bain's revenge—he wants us to see how it eats away at her. The violence here is dirty, shocking and disturbing.

But he overcompensates in trying to make the movie deep and somber, with achingly long, dour moments of Erica in tortured repose and one too many slow-motion close-ups of our heroine staring gape-mouthed at her dying victims. Along with dialogue that strains to be poetic, the tone of the film is operatic and overreaching. And the strange, awkward ending will likely leave you wondering, "What's the point?"

The 180—a Second Opinion:  As usual, it is marvelous to see Foster in action. She is one of the few actresses whose face literally changes according to her character's emotions: Young and fresh in happier scenes, haggard and gray in others. She really is the brave one here—brave enough to expose her soul for the entire world to see.

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