“It’s not cream, it’s vanilla”
It appears all the critical response I read was true when it came to Neil Jordan’s The Brave One. Derivative, predictable, repetitive, and slow are all words that can be used to describe it. I remember hearing that Jordan himself was never too enthused about the movie either, pretty much saying that it wasn’t his, he was just a hired hand to get it all on screen. Well, it sure felt that way as there is no originality or flair at all, just a very point and shoot style with askew camera angles slowly righting themselves the only visual flourish. Now the acting wasn’t half bad and the story wasn’t that uninteresting, unfortunately it all didn’t mesh well as the script thought we needed to be beaten over the head with the killings going on. This is a revenge flick, we know that our lead will eventually come face to face with her assaulters, don’t bore us with the periphery stuff for so long that we just don’t carry anymore when the good stuff happens. Also, the use of our victim’s radio show and the public’s outcries about whether a vigilante is something the world needs becomes laughable. Don’t try to give us any moral ambiguity as a community; this is about her and her revenge. That is why I like Death Sentence so much—a film with very similar themes handled a lot better. That film knew we understood his bloodlust; here we need to go through the motions as though there is a grander plan involved. Well there isn’t, so don’t waste our time.
The relationship between Jodie Foster’s Erica, the victim vigilante, and Terrence Howard’s Mercer, the detective she befriends, is a very interesting one. They both have the same feelings on the law that the criminals are always finding a way to survive at the cost of innocent lives. However, while she decides to go outside it in order to do right, he will always stay within, because if the law doesn’t work, what is the point? I think that although the ending is very predictable and handled in way to make it humorous (don’t ask me how, but it is) I still believe it was a logical conclusion and worked in the scope of everything that occurs. I could have done without the “shaking hands” observation that came up about every twenty minutes or so, but this thing is so heavy-handed I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by how important the filmmakers decided to make that small detail.
Foster is always pretty good and as the victim here she succeeds with regularity. There are many quiet moments where her facial expressions and emotions have to carry along the story. Her reactions to the murders and the wrestling with her own demons about whether what she is doing is right are nicely done. As for Howard, he is the true star. Maybe he goes a tad overboard, but his own tug of war with doing what is supposed to be right instead of what he feels is right is etched on his face. Almost disillusioned about his own job, it is he that has to deal with the most during the course of the movie. Where he goes, as a character, is the unknown factor, even though one can guess where he will end up quite easily, he manages to make the journey stay interesting.
I can’t necessarily recommend the movie because it has all been done before, most times better. The Brave One is a well-made movie, but there just isn’t anything to stick out and warrant a second viewing, or even the thought that the first was necessary. It is an amalgam of clichés and moments slapped together. When you have things like the locale of the beating called Stranger’s Cove and the sage next-door neighbor, initially looked on as a reclusive, anger-filled woman, become a character to impart wisdom and a useful stitching skill, you know you are just being toyed with while the producers make their money, laughing on how they made the audience think this was an original film. The only thing I can truly recommend is checking out Nicky Katt’s brief but effective role as Howard’s detective partner. He is the comic relief and pulls it off brilliantly. He is never used enough in Hollywood, but it’s nice that he can be successful in even the most mundane of films.
The Brave One 5/10 | ★ ★
courtesy of the Toronto International Film Festival