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The Brave One (2007)

Warner Home Video
DVD Released: 2/5/2008

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/4/2008

In my recent review for the Kevin Bacon vehicle Death Sentence, I discussed the cyclical nature of the vigilante film and how these movies seem to crop up from time to time. It's interesting to note that Death Sentence and The Brave One, with Jodie Foster, were released into U.S. theaters only two weeks apart. On the surface, the two films are similar, as they both deal with characters who lose a loved one to violence and then take justice into their own hands. But, while Death Sentence is more of an action film (and a darn good one at that), The Brave One focuses more on the psychological aspects of the story.

Foster stars in The Brave One as Erica Bain, who lives in New York City and hosts a radio talk show called "Street Walk". (Which is a little too close to "street walker" for me, but that may just be me, as I'm a total prude.) Erica loves the city and often walks its streets (hence the show name) recording sounds and talking to people. One day, Erica and her fiance, David (Naveen Andrews) are walking in the park when they are approached by a gang of thugs. David is beaten to death and Erica is left unconscious. When she awakens in the hospital several days later, she learns that she's missed David's funeral and that she's all alone. Now terrified to walk her beloved streets, Erica illegally purchases a gun. While witnessing a crime, her anxiety leads her to use the weapon. Empowered by this feeling, Erica begins to walk the streets, looking for danger.

Meanwhile, Detective Mercer (Terrence Howard) is called in to investigate a murder which appears to be a vigilante killing. He sees Erica at the press conference and approaches her, as he had seen her in the hospital when she was in a coma. Erica asks to interview Mercer, asking him a lot of questions about justice and violence. As Erica begins to spiral out of control, Mercer feels that he's getting closer to the vigilante.

The Brave One is an interesting movie, as it has all of the trappings of a standard vigilante movie, but the highbrow names involved take the movie to a different level. Actually, the movie plays like a sort of remake of Abe Ferrara's 1981 exploitation classic Ms. 45. In that film, a mute woman who is attacked on the streets of New York City. She then procures a gun, and begins to dress very provocatively, using her allure to attract and kill men. The Brave One can be seen as a flipside companion piece to that film. Whereas the victim in Ms. 45 was mute, Erica Bain uses her voice for a living. The woman in Ms. 45 dresses very seductively to lure men, whereas Erica's clothes become more and more spartan. (Then again, I may be the only one who sees the similarities between the two films.)

While the overall structure of The Brave One may be similar to some other movies, the script has some very clever touches. In most films of this nature, the main character is simply an everyman (or everywoman) who is molded by circumstances. But, here, Erica is somewhat of a celebrity. The nice twist is that she's only known for her voice, thus no one is able to ID her. The fact that Erica befriends Mercer is a very nice touch. The detective is playing a cat and mouse game with Erica, but he doesn't even know it. Director Neil Jordan does a great job of ramping up the tension here, as there is no overt indication given if and when Mercer begins to suspect Erica. As the two talk, the viewer is left to guess exactly how much Mercer knows and this becomes quite suspenseful. The brutality in The Brave One must be mentioned as well. I'm not talking about the violence, as the film is no more or less violent than other movies in this genre, I'm referring to Erica's behavior. In short, she becomes a killing machine and never hesitates when faced with a criminal. This makes her character somewhat unique, as we would expect the female character to put her feelings first, but this is a woman on a mission and she's already made up her mind that she will do whatever it takes to make her streets safe again.

As one would expect, Jodie Foster is excellent in the lead role. Most likely drawing upon past roles (most specifically The Accused and The Silence of the Lambs), Foster plays a women who is at first a victim and then a predator. Even when she's with Mercer, she does little to hide her emotions, and we never question what Erica is feeling, as Foster lays it all out for us to see. Terence Howard is very good as Mercer. This character is multi-layered, as we see him as an honest cop who is dealing with both job-related and personal issues. As noted above, Howard takes his performance in the opposite direction of Foster's, as we don't know what he's thinking until near the end.

While it's not exactly a treasure-trove of original ideas, The Brave One is a satisfying film. Those looking for a straight-ahead action movie will find something to like, but there is also substance for those who want something a little deeper. But, be warned, this is a dark and brutal film which doesn't pull any punches. It has action, but it may leave you depressed as well.

The Brave One seeks vengeance on DVD courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has come to DVD in two separate editions, one full-frame and the otehr widescreen. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The transfer looks good as the image is quite sharp and clear. There is a smidge of grain here (mostly due to processing), but there are no defects from the source material. The colors look good and there is a nice use of color against the dark cityscape. Speaking of which, a lot of the film takes place at night, but the image is never overly dark. Some shots lacked in detail, and I spotted some mild artifacting, but otherwise, a solid transfer. The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The street scenes provide some nice stereo and surround sound effects. The bass really comes into play during the action scenes and we hear and feel every "boom" form Erica's gun. The audio really help to draw in the viewer.

The Brave One DVD is isn't overrun with extra features. "I Walk the City" (22 minutes) is a making-of featurette which examines many facets of the film. The piece contains a great deal of comments from Jodie Foster, director Neil Jordan, the producers, and others. There is an exploration of the script and the changes through which it went. We get an overview of Jodie Foster's character. The advantages and challenges of shooting in New York are covered. Finally, Foster and Howard talk about their characters and acting. The DVD contains 5 ADDITIONAL SCENES which run about 6 minutes. There's not a lot of new information here, but we do get a scene where Erica's friends attempts to get her out of the house, and more of the scene with Mercer and his ex-wife.

Warner Home Video has also brought The Brave One to Blu-ray Disc. The film is letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the disc holds a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 17 Mbps. The image is notably sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. The image isn't especially deep, but it is nicely detailed. The colors look very good and the image is never too dark or too bright. There is no video noise or aftifacting here and the framing appears to be accurate. The Blu-ray Disc offers a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and averages 1.9 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track is very rich and when Foster is doing her radio show, her voice sounds fantastic. The gunshots pack a very nice wallop here, and nice surround and stereo effects during the exterior scenes. The video and audio on The Brave One Blu-ray Disc are definitely an improvement over what was already a nice DVD.

The extras on the Blu-ray Disc are the same as those found on the DVD.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long