<div style="float:left">
<script type="text/javascript"><!--
google_ad_client = "pub-9764823118029583";
/* 125x125, created 12/10/07 */
google_ad_slot = "8167036710";
google_ad_width = 125;
google_ad_height = 125;
<script type="text/javascript"
</script></div>{/googleAds}The Brave One opens like a brainy commentary piece with plenty of smart things to say about random violence and its effect on people in today's post-9/11 world. But by the time the film runs its course it morphs into a vigilante exploitation film in the vein of some of the genre's bloody and thrilling best. It wants to be like Crash, but ends up more like Death Wish. Not that there's anything wrong with either of those two films, but you can't be both... or if you can, this isn't it.

The concept of vigilantism, at least in the movie world, has almost always centered on men who take justice into their own hands. The Brave One screenwriters Roderick and Bruce A. Taylor put a somewhat unique spin on this conventional thinking by placing a woman, Erica Baines (Jodie Foster), in the role of righteousness ranger. Yet they fail to get much mileage out of the concept. Even though the typical questions and dilemmas of a vigilante movie are approached from a different angle (women don't usually kill random people), once it's all said and done, there's really nothing new here?

The film opens as Erica, a public-radio talk show host, loses her fiancée, David (Naveen Andrews) when the two are ambushed and savagely beaten in a random act of violence while walking through a New York City park. Although her broken body eventually heals, the deep wounds from the loss of her lover send Erica into a downward spiral of overwhelming grief and fear. To help her navigate the now cold, frightening city she once loved, Erica buys a gun on the black market and takes a 15-second lesson on its proper use. And as either fate or preposterous happenstance might have it, it's not long before she unwittingly stumbles upon a couple of robberies in progress that call upon her newfound gun-handling skills.

With each shot fired into the bodies of the calloused thugs, Erica finds more and more comfort. Her hands no longer shake before pulling the trigger. Does she enjoy it? Or is she driven by her newfound fame as the city's avenging angel? She now coddles her gun with the loving embrace she once reserved for David. Her transformation from soft-spoken journalist to five feet of wild-eyed feminine fury is beginning. And this is also where The Brave One begins to lose its way. What began as a high-minded think piece complete with poetic, whispery voiceovers that double as her on-air commentary - is now spilling over into a blood-sport action film.

Foster's transformation is a beautiful thing to watch making it the primary appeal of the entire movie. Not many other actresses can handle the complexity of facial gesture the way she does. She speaks volumes about her psyche without uttering a word. It's hard to put a finger on exactly how she does it, but it has something to do with the way her jaw sets, her head tilts, and her eyes squint. Foster's performance here is a lesson for film-school students everywhere. Study up pupils, it's that good!

Holding his own opposite Foster is Terrence Howard as Detective Mercer, a by-the-book NYPD homicide investigator who senses that all the murders are connected in some way... and all seem to be the by-product of a vigilante on the loose. Det. Mercer believes in the system, yet he's becoming increasingly disillusioned and frustrated by it at the same time. A vigilante on the loose most certainly poses the toughest moral dilemma a cop ever faces, and Howard convinces us of this with the way his Mercer interacts with Baines. Both characters are wounded birds that have lost their loved ones (Mercer via divorce) and are wrestling with decisions about moral responsibility which we already know, are never black and white. It's a privilege to watch these two act together. It's just a shame the script doesn't give them a little more meat to share.

Beautifully photographed (visually reminiscent of Collateral) but a little stale on plot and misguided in direction, The Brave One is a story of what could have been. The neat little twist on the vigilante justice theme opened the door for something new and exciting. But as it is, it's really just a mixed-up little tale that can't decide what it wants to be. What should have been a bright and arty message piece, is neutered by its makers and ends up being just another hard-hitting, well-acted action thriller served on a heaping platter of blood and guts... with a teeny bit of introspection sprinkled on top.


DVD Details:

Screen formats: Widescreen Anamorphic 1.78:1

Subtitles: English; Spanish; French

Language and Sound: English: Dolby Digital 5.1

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access.

* Commentary - none
* Featurettes
o I Walk the City
* Deleted Scenes
* Trailers - for Michael Clayton, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Get Smart, Shoot 'Em Up

Number of discs: - 1- Keepcase Packaging