Warner Bros. // 2007 // 122 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Dennis Prince (Retired) // February 9th, 2008
"...revenge makes us feel good..."
It's difficult to botch up a vigilante film, one that depicts a mild-tempered individual who ultimately snaps when law and order fail to keep criminals at bay. And while there is absolute unlawfulness to the aggressive actions of the self-appointed, most of us will applaud when a cretin gets his well-deserved comeuppance. Here's a new picture that features screen favorite Jodie Foster who finds herself caught in the quagmire when justice seems to be absent as the city she loves threatens to consume her, physically and emotionally. Someone has to do something and, as this new Blu-ray disc reveals, Foster might be our best bet.
Erica Bain (Jodie Foster, Taxi Driver) hosts a successful New York-based radio talk show, I Walk the City, in which she opines, wistfully, about the changes that are taking place in her native home state. Although she often waxes nostalgic about the nation's "safest big city," her true refuge comes in the arms of her fiancé, David (Naveen Andrews, Lost). Erica's dreams, both past and present, come to a shattering halt when she and David are viciously attacked by a group of thugs in Central Park. Erica barely survives the battering but David has died. Discordant and irreparably distressed, Erica struggles to re-enter society, to return to her work, and to resume her life. She's not the same person anymore and, although she's still alive, her former "self" is not. Bravely, she ventures out and surreptitiously obtains a handgun, determined not to become a prisoner to her unchecked fear. As she witnesses a brutal murder in a convenience store, Erica's darker side emerges and drops the assailant in his tracks. Erica escapes the scene, undetected but severely shaken. Days later, she similarly looks on as a couple of punks threaten her with a knife, only to find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Shots ring out and Erica coolly steps over two bodies that now litter an otherwise empty subway car. As the media descends upon these apparent vigilante killings, Detective Mercer (Terrence Howard, Awake) works to piece together a trail that will lead him to an unwanted "civil servant." When Mercer spies Erica just outside the media crush of the subway scene, he gently pursues her, recalling her previous ordeal. Soon, Erica is keeping company, professionally, with her would-be captor, interviewing the detective and discovering his suppressed desires to dispense with constrictive legalities in order to bring swift justice to those who deserve it most. And, as Erica continues to unleash her own brand of justice in the dark streets of the city, she realizes she is teetering on the brink of incarceration, or insanity, or both.
If you think The Brave One is a run-of-the-mill revenge picture, think again. Although produced by the often uneven Joel Silver, this picture is clearly in the capable hands of insightful director Neil Jordan (The Crying Game, The Good Thief). The stage is set for a rather pedestrian anguish-begets-avenging riff but this one veers of that path much traveled to portray Erica as the sort of terrified warrior she should be. This doesn't suggest that because she is a woman that she is less capable of extracting a pound of flesh but, rather that she is intelligent enough to recognize where her unbridled grief has led her, a dark realm out of touch with morality and rightness. Even though she strikes a moment or two of inner calm after dispatching assailants, she realizes she has ventured into an area where her own self-destruction is looming large on the fast advancing horizon. She becomes overwhelmed, then, with her grief coupled with her mounting guilt; she knows she should surrender herself to the authorities but is simultaneously driven to fully avenge David's death. Her encounters -- and friendship -- with Det. Mercer add perfect doses of anxiety and paranoia to the situation, resulting in a vigilante picture that never shies away from on-the-street justice yet is clear in its awareness that it is operating with one foot squarely situated within the criminal world. It's a perfectly precarious balance that Jordan maintains for the entire duration.
Jodie Foster is properly cast as Erica, somewhat reminiscent of the sorts of roles she has played previously -- a beleaguered woman pitted against the most heinous of antagonists within the most dire of situations (see Panic Room and Flightplan). Even so, Foster brings believability to the role and convinces us with every perfectly placed nuance that she is trapped in an existence she never chose for herself. Visually, she's competent as the unwitting warrior, transforming from a soft and sensual lover to a frightened yet dangerous death merchant. Naveen Andrews gets scant little screen time opposite Foster so we're never granted much time to assess their chemistry. Surrogate to David is Mercer, depicted to precision by Terrence Howard. In fact, the chemistry he strikes with Foster is some of the best you'll see in modern cinema and, because of the inverted captor and criminal relationship they develop, their scenes are captivating to behold.
But is there any gritty gunplay at hand here? You bet -- plenty. As if surrendering to her dark half, Erica wields a weapon with improved accuracy and steely intent with each successive encounter. Jordan never flinches from the bloodshed, giving us a front row view of the raw carnage that goes down. That said he still resists whipping his viewers up into a frothy frenzy and cheering as each bad guy is sent screaming into the hereafter. While he does tap the audience's need to feel justice is being served -- be it through administrative due process or ad-hoc restitution -- he insists the viewer be reminded that Erica is working on the fray and is actually a "bad guy" herself.
Now, Warner Brothers unleashes The Brave One in high definition, here in the Blu-ray format (but also available concurrently on the HD DVD format). Having established a solid reputation for HD releases, this disc doesn't disappoint and serves as another example of WB's competency in high-definition mastering. This begins with a stunning 1080p / VC-1 encoded transfer, struck from a pristine source print and appearing crisp, clear, and consistent from start to finish. The color rendering is exceptional as is the excellent shadow detail, showing off the impressive work of Director of Photography Phillipe Rousselot (Constantine).
Audio is slightly more impressive thanks to one of the best Dolby TrueHD 5.1 tracks yet. While the mix isn't a relentless pounding of surround channels, a la Transformers, it is thoughtfully delivered with appropriately balanced ambience of city noises with dialog perfectly clear and score well represented throughout. However, when shots are fired, you'll feel the impact as if the chamber just discharged alongside you. The low-end roars and pulses every time a gun goes off, the high end crackling with the charge, the mid-range letting you hear the casings bounce and spin on the ground. Excellent, excellent work here.
Extras on the disc are a bit sparse, consisting of a 21-minute promotional piece, I Walk the City, which provides the usual behind-the-scenes chatter from the cast and crew but still manages to impart some interesting information about the origin and evolution of the script. This is followed by six minutes of additional scenes, none critical to the story and each providing just a bit more backstory to the drama. Both elements are presented in VC-1 encoding.
If there is anything truly noteworthy to complain about here, it has to be in regards to this Blu-ray disc's cover art. We're given a steely eyed Jodie Foster brandishing a firearm in our faces, leading us to believe this will be -- as previously mentioned and disputed -- a typical vigilante outing. This truly underserves the feature film within, one that offers so much more than most would expect, perhaps working in the film's favor provided viewers are open to getting more than Death Wish or Ms. 45. Noticeably, the film's original one-sheet artwork depicted Foster as the anguished avenger but that, sadly, did not make it to the home video release.
If you like your vengeance pictures with a decidedly more intelligent approach and undeniable sense of conscience, The Brave One will not disappoint. There is justice and the ending, though it won't be spoiled here, should satisfy.
A woman's gotta do what a woman's gotta do. Not guilty!
Review content copyright © 2008 Dennis Prince; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (Widescreen)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 122 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Featurette: I Walk the City
* Additional scenes
* Official Site
* Original DVD Verdict Review