Revenge films have always been a hard genre to swallow. More often than not, they aren’t particularly fun (except for Kill Bill or The Crow and a few others that I currently can’t recall), with most being depressing and morbid, usually following the same plot device that I refer to as “the check list”. The overused premise goes something like this… the wronged heroine undergoes a transformation after a brutal incident and kills anyone involved with his or her suffering. Sound familiar? Thought so. Revenge has the potential to be thrilling, but even to the average movie-goer, some surprise is desired and in that sense, they are mostly tedious and unmemorable.
The Brave One is neither unique nor completely generic but rather in between. The story centers on Erica Bain (played bravely by Jodie Foster, no pun intended), a local radio talk show host, who is brutally beaten alongside her fiancé’ David (played by Lost’s Naveen Andrews). Unlike David, Erica manages to live through the attack only to find herself completely alone with no one to confide in.
Unable to tolerate the police’s incompetence or even comprehend the psychological trauma she’s experiencing, she buys an illegal firearm and roams the streets of New York, killing random criminals, in search of the men responsible for her fiancé’s death. Over the course of the film, she manages to befriend a frustrated but honest cop, Detective Mercer, (played well by Terrence Howard) who happens to be the lead investigator on her criminal-shooting spree.
The film was directed by Neil Jordan, who was responsible for 1992’s controversial The Crying Game, and you get the distinct impression that he made this for a paycheck. Despite the good performances and occasional thrilling action, the film overall is an extremely been-there-done-that, by-the-numbers revenge film. Although they attempt to make it much more than it is about, questioning whether or not what she’s doing is justified, the film is inescapably generic.
Despite the film’s lackluster story, Jodie Foster is particularly strong in the role of a tortured woman, coming to grips with the death of her lover and continuing on with her life. Foster’s tired, often frightening eyes tell a story all their own. Instead of allowing this character to be a casual killer, she beautifully portrays her as a tormented, doubtful woman, who can’t decide whether or not she herself is right.
On the other hand, Terrence Howard also gives a notable performance as the honest cop and does the best he possibly can to make up for the screenplay’s one-dimensional character. But the two actors really shine when they’re on screen together. The chemistry and understated sexual tension between them is brilliantly played and subtle. Without saying a word, they say more about the characters then the dialogue does.
Sadly though, the film remains average with a conclusion that borders on ludicrous and a story that that nearly becomes too tedious. In short, it’s an OK script elevated by a talented cast and a good director. In anyone else’s hands, the film would’ve been as laughably bad as Death Sentence but rest assured, it isn’t nearly that horrid. If nothing else is playing at your local cinema, then it’s the type of film that I’d shrug at and say, “why not?”