Friday, August 15, 2008

The Brave One - Dir. Neil Jordan

Last night I watched The Brave One on my Cinemax ONDEMAND, with my burgeoning exit from L.A. and personal Time Warner Cable subscription soon to end. I had vaguely wanted to see this movie in theaters but decided to perhaps rent it, and it is best that I waited until I could watch it on TV with little effort required.

Neil Jordan is perhaps best known for directing Interview with the Vampire, The Crying Game, and Breakfast on Pluto. With those three androgyne thriller-dramedies, you might expect some subversive element in this decidedly mainstream affair. Well, the closest it comes to that is when Jodie Foster asks Terrence Howard if he can't sleep as well since he and his wife have been divorced and he has to sleep alone. He says he doesn't, and she says, "Me neither," which then should be followed by a vague cover-up like, "But I mean my boyfriend, not my wife," though nothing is said and one is just meant to fill in the appropriate blank themselves. But that is getting nitpicky and silly.

Jodie Foster plays a woman who is engaged to be married to a young Indian doctor, living in New York City and working as a radio host of a show about "walking the streets." She carries a microphone around with her and records various subway train noises and traffic. Her opening monologue is a description of how New York has changed and is no longer the magical place it is commonly referred to in works of art by famous writers. She leaves, and Mary Steenburgen, her boss, tells her great job. She goes to an art show--which I have to say is the coolest visual part of the movie, because I honestly thought they were outside on the streets when they were in fact inside a gallery in front of giant paintings of New York City storefronts.

Her boyfriend hates going to the art openings her friend Jane Adams invites them to, but he shows up this time, and they leave. They pick up their dog Curtis to talk a walk through Central Park. They stroll romantically for a while, and their dog gets loose and runs off. They find him just past a tunnel, and two n'er-do-wells start talking to them about a "leash rule" and asking for a reward for finding their missing dog and it quickly turns violent. One of the two men films them beating the crap out of the young doctor and the radio host. They go to the hospital and Jodie slips into a 3 week coma. She wakes up and is told that her husband-to-be is dead.

She has absolutely no idea how to go on, so she takes up smoking cigarettes. She has one caring neighbor from the Carribean who sees her and says, "You shouldn't smoke. It'll kill you." and Jodie Foster says, "I don't care." She takes a long time to go back to work, and the first day back on the air she freezes up and lets a minute of dead-air go by. Mary Steenburgen is upset with her about this, but her new status as victim has given her the need to talk about how cruel and terrible a place New York is, and people respond to her newfound sense of rage.

She tries to talk to cops about her case, to find the men who attacked and killed her boyfriend, but they treat her as if she has just taken a number from the deli line at the supermarket, and she goes out to buy a gun. She tries to buy one legally, but the proprietor says she has to wait a month for her license, and she says she doesn't have a month. Conveniently, there is a man in the store who knows where to get an illegal gun for $1,000 and will show her how to use it.

Then, later that night she goes to a deli to get a can of Coke and maybe some beer, and a crazy man comes in and kills his wife who is working behind the counter. Someone calls Jodie in the instant and her cell phone goes off and the guy needs to kill her too to erase witnesses, and instead, Jodie kills him. Note: I find this scene unrealistic because there is a sign on the counter that says "Restrooms for customers only"--I have never seen an admission of a deli having a restroom for customers period. Secondly, she should have stolen beer after she killed the guy, but instead she just takes the security tape to erase the evidence.

Terrence Howard comes on the scene and investigates. Later, Jodie is on a subway train, and two young thugs ask a kid what he is listening to and he says, "Radiohead" and they steal his iPod and start threatening an elderly man with his son or grandson. They all get off the train because they're scared, but Jodie stays on, and the guys come up to her, and there is absolutely the worst pun ever on the name Radiohead that could possibly exist--"Do you want to give me some radiohead too?" Jodie kills them. Two murders, same bullets, matching gun, Terrence Howard says they have a vigilante.

Later a pimp is killed, and a prostitute is saved, and Jodie has doled out justice yet again. I think I've explained enough about the movie.

The Brave One is not so much unlike the Showtime series "Dexter" or even The Dark Knight, except that it is lacking in humor or real menace. There are barely any jokes to speak of in this movie. It is the most serious movie I have watched since Deep Impact. She is something of a superhero, except there is no comic-book aesthetic to make the whole thing seamless. It just seems like Jodie is really good at being in the wrong place at the wrong time. There are few surprises in the film, and the ending is the only somewhat unpredictable moment, and is relatively unsatisfying. However, there is chemistry between Howard and Foster, their performances make you want to see how it all ends, and how they are going to reconcile their opposing and yet similar aims. He has to be on the right side of the law, while getting the bad guys, but she is the one that actually takes care of business.

Honestly, I don't know whether to recommend this film or not. Perhaps if one has been a victim of a violent crime whose perpetrator has not been brought to justice, they might glean some satisfaction from such acts of revenge, and plan some similar manuever. It might prove personally cathartic, but I find this film too far outside the scope of reality, more suited to a comic book aesthetic than a realist aesthetic, for it to be properly satisfying for the viewer. It is a very dark movie that is mostly very predictable and should not leave anyone with greatly changed opinions about the nature of violence and justice.

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