The subversive

Review by Vives Anunciacion
Inquirer Libre September 12, 2007

The Brave One
Directed by Neil Jordan
Starring Jodie Foster, Terrence Howard
R13/ 119 minutes
Warner Brothers/ Silver Pictures

She was 12 years old when she portrayed a prostitute in Martin Scorsese’s classic Taxi Driver. She won her first Oscar as a rape victim in The Accused. Jodie Foster is known to take on strong roles, even as she traded barbs in Inside Man, between Clive Owen and Denzel Washington. A French director once compared her to God’s perfect acting machine.

So what is she doing in The Brave One? She becomes an action star. Foster plays radio commentator Erica Bain who spends her off-time recording everyday sounds of New York City and then makes romantic observations of the city’s decay in her show called Street Walk.

While walking her dog in Central Park one night, Erica and her fiancé David (Naveen Andrews) are violently mugged. She wakes up after three weeks in a coma only to find out David dead. Erica becomes introverted, afraid of the city she once called “the safest big city in the world.” She buys a gun and slowly devolves from a law-abiding citizen into an out-of-control vigilante who has found a new source of power that can eliminate her fears.

Complicating things, Erica develops a unique friendship with police detective Mercer (Terrence Howard) who is helping her find her fiancé’s killers. It is only a matter of time before Erica or Mercer finds the killers.

It is always an event to watch Foster in any role. Foster is riveting as a traumatized Erica Bain whose struggle to cope with her loss and her fears are so internalized they are expressed through her bloodshot eyes, her lowered voice and the faint wrinkling of her brows.

Does her hand shake after she pulls the trigger? No. Near the end when she exacts her ultimate revenge, Bain has mutated from shaking victim into a tight-lipped machine. Her transition makes The Brave One a fascinating watch.

But it is a weird watch, one that has a subject matter that bravely opens the narrative to controversial territory, except much of director Neil Jordan’s deliberately slow treatment keep Erica safely on likeable ground. Except for Mercer, whose sympathy with Erica lies on his guilt of failing to catch her attackers, the rest in the movie belong to demographic stereotypes whose characters are casually forgettable. It’s unclear whether the movie is outside looking in on Erica or attacking white supremacy. The treatment doesn’t seem to be brave enough to push the envelope further.

Yes it has a happy ending, to the music of Sarah McLachlan. This exploration into a character’s darkening psyche ends in a satisfying manner, one that Pinoys would usually like. But do remember this is a revenge movie where the main character takes the law into her own hands.

Either rule the law, or the law rules.

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