"The Brave One," a harsh urban tale of violence and brutality, is a powerfully realized piece of cinema.
New York radio personality Erica Bain (Jodie Foster) loves life in the Big Apple, and especially loves her fiance David (Naveen Andrews). One night while the two of them are walking their dog in Central Park, they are ambushed by a gang of muggers. David is beaten to death, their dog is stolen, and Erica wakes up alone in the hospital three weeks later. Overcome with grief and fear from her ordeal, she is reluctant to even leave her apartment. Although it is against her nature, she purchases a gun for security and is soon forced to use it. However, she cannot help but feel somewhat empowered with her new firearm, and she starts to become dangerously aggressive. This attracts the attention of a meticulous detective (Terrence Howard) who is familiar with her recent loss.
Foster is quite commanding in the lead. In recent years, her choice in roles was starting to become repetitive; she can certainly play the part of the jaded, tough woman well enough, but while it definitely worked in "The Accused" and "The Silence of the Lambs," performances in "Panic Room" and "Flightplan" did not have the same kind of staying power. In her latest movie, the actress is able to rejuvenate her career with a very convincing display of acting. What makes it more impressive is that she does not completely upstage her fellow performers. Even with all the focus on Foster, Howard is not shunted aside, the importance of his investigative character becoming increasingly clearer as the film progresses.
Director Neil Jordan, renowned for gritty movies such as "Mona Lisa" and "The Crying Game," sets the stage perfectly for this all-too-real story. At first it plays like a female version of "Death Wish," but the film becomes much more complex and dramatic with its portrayal of Erica's inner turmoil. An interesting comparison is how she bemoans the obliteration of the historical features of New York City, yet has to do the same kind of reconstruction of her own persona in order to handle the environment around her which she now perceives to be ugly and threatening. Her descent into the reaches of the criminal underworld comes uncomfortably close to advocating vigilantism, but the story manages to come off without saying too much for or against the solution to crime.
Anchored by the laudable performances of Foster and Howard, "The Brave One" is an altogether realistic depiction of the unfortunate amount of violence that is present in our society.