Violence is inherent. Brought on by fear, anger, despair or ignorance, it's a side of humanity we'd rather forget -- until it rips into our lives and forces us to change. It comes without warning and violates our way of life, our hope. And still, our culture is obsessed with it. Violence moves merchandise and sells movie tickets. Instead of exploring this dichotomy, The Brave One sensationalizes and embraces the violence that should drive its themes rather than its box office appeal.
The story is oddly familiar. Erica (Jodie Foster
) and David (Naveen Andrews
) are a young, engaged couple looking forward to their wedding. As the epitome of happiness, the two are a borderline self-parody right off the bat. Of course, the motiveless thugs who brutally beat them are every inch their thematic foils -- hard-drinking, foul-mouthed ingrates who revel in and even videotape the trashing. Three weeks later, Erica awakes in a hospital bed to find out that her fiancée is dead, and she fights her emotional losses by dealing out her own brand of justice. All she is missing is Batman's cape and cool gadgets. Article continues below
While David Cronenberg explored the nature of violence and crafted a compelling thriller with 2005's A History of Violence, director Neil Jordon
is incapable of capitalizing on any thematic material that is obvious enough to slap him in the face. Within the first 20 minutes, Jordon sets himself up with two contrasting archetypes and just after that juxtaposes the ER doctors working on the broken Erica and David with the couple making love. But don't read too much into these cinematic innuendoes, because they don't add up to anything. They are quickly traded for cinematic clichés such as skewed camera angles to represent Erika's fears and the crescendoing sound of following footsteps to point out her paranoia.
By the time Erika buys an unregistered handgun for her own peace of mind, any thoughts about actually exploring the catharsis of violence are thrown out the window. Apparently, buying a gun quickly cures any fears because Erika is no longer afraid to leave her apartment in the middle of the night to go down the street to the barred-windowed convenience store and pick up a midnight snack. There, as chance would have it, an angry man with a gun comes in, and she gets her first taste of vigilante violence. It's amazing how Erika can go a lifetime without encountering any violence and within a month, come across four or five random acts of it.
Instead of showing the affect of violence, Jordon fills the gaps between Erika's gun fire with a detective (Terrence Howard
) that is hot on the trail of the vigilante. Paying no attention to the more obvious, albeit safer, theme of feminism, as the androgynous Foster kills man after man, the film talks about justice for five minutes while a radio talk show takes calls from listeners about the vigilante. But it's a half-hearted attempt when Erika is justified in the end. With all the thematic false starts and missed opportunity, The Brave One boils down to violence begets violence, and says it cures all the pain of loss.