Directed By Neil Jordon
Starring Jodie Foster, Terrance Howard
The Brave One is the latest entry in a long line of revenge movies such as the classic Death Wish and the Kevin Costner flick Revenge. The Brave One actually falls into a subgenre of the female revenge movie where the one taking the revenge is a female. There’s been plenty of those too such as Sudden Impact, one of the great Dirty Harry films and to a more exploitative degree I Spit on Your Grave.
This is a fairly by the numbers fill the formula story. Man and woman are in love, man and woman are attacked, man is killed, woman seeks revenge. This film takes a much more Death Wish sort of approach than many other films of the genre in that she doesn’t just seek out the ones who wronged her, she kills any criminal she comes into contact with. There’s also the expected grizzled cop who finds her out but sympathizes with her and tries to offer her a way out rather than bringing her in.The film examines this character, played by Jodie Foster, from a psychological point of view looking into what makes her tick now versus prior to the attack. The problem is that her evolution, if you will, from a scared and damaged woman to a bad ass vigilante doesn’t happen with any true impact. Instead it falls on a coincidence, a chance meeting of her and another criminal. Death Wish never pretended to be more than an exploitation flick with the bad guys all being bad and Charles Bronson handing out the deserved justice. There’s definitely some level of entertainment value there but The Brave One wants to be more but it never gets brave enough to actually move beyond its B movie heritage. Every vigilante killing is set up to be a deserved killing. There’s no question the people she kills didn’t deserve it.
What if she went to far? What if she killed a criminal who maybe should have been given a chance? What if she saw the repercussions of one of her killings, such as what happened to her victims family after the death of a husband? I’m not saying it’s OK to be a criminal I’m saying that I’d like to have seen the film take a minute and examine who deserves capitol punishment and who doesn’t. If not that them how about a more in depth examination about what violence has done to Fosters’ character? Finally there’s an obvious choice that’s actually touched on but never really given any real time in the film; how about some commentary about New York, “the safest big city in the world”? Fosters character is a radio talk show host and she does touch on this a bit but she never really gets into it. It comes off more as a throw away line or two.
At its heart The Brave One is no more than a Death Wish remake with a bigger budget and A list stars in it. That might be cool if it really did something unique with the story but instead it tries to ride the fence between being as exploitative as Death Wish and being an being something more art house like. The movie doesn’t sell at the beginning because Foster and her fiancée Naveen Andrews (LOST) have zero chemistry. Don’t get me wrong I don’t hate the movie, it’s not bad, it’s just not great. There are several good moments in the film with the most notable being a scene between Foster and Howard in a diner. The chemistry between them is much more true and the scene is also shot very nicely. It’s not bad, but between the two I’d rather watch Death Wish.
This film was released on a flipper disc with standard def DVD on one side and HD-DVD on the other. This decision from Warner never made sense to me because they also released a standard DVD edition of the film separately so why bother bring the standard def version over to the HD-DVD release? At any rate we’ll be looking at the HD-DVD side of the disc for the audio/video portions of this review.
The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen 1080p video and it looks great overall. The films bigger budget actually allows it to look much better than it should considering the subject matter and genre of the film. Rather than a gritty Grind House film we get a very slick and sharp Hollywood film more akin to something like Collateral than Death Wish. Within the transfer colors look great and skin tones appear as they were meant too considering the stylized color pallet. Detail is strong in both bright and dimmer scenes and black levels are strong. The only real complaint I found is a very thin layer of grain in the film that would sort of come and go. Otherwise this is a fantastic hi def presentation. .
There’s a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and even better a Dolby TrueHD mix. Both sound great with the nod going to the lossless TrueHD presentation. For a genre film the sound presentation here is very laid back, and I found that refreshing. Foster’s character is a radio talk show host and it often feels like we’re listening to an NPT presentation of this story with somber quiet music and subtle ambient sounds coming from the rear speakers. I believe this is supposed to contrast with the louder action scenes to jolt us into her world and it does that perfectly. Dialogue is strong and clean throughout and the balance is solid too. It’s a really quiet presentation but it’s a well done one too.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The single flipper disc comes packaged in a standard amaray case with cover art taken from the poster for the film. The artwork does a good job of selling the film and it does feature Foster so her fans will gravitate to it easily.
There’s not a lot here for fans of the film to dig into. I Walk the City is a standard issue making of featurette with interviews from cast and crew mixed with scenes from the film and some behind the scenes shots too. There’s no depth to this. All we get are backslapping and typical promotional type information. There is just a bit of information about how the film was conceived but other than that this is your run of the mill press kit video.
There’s about 12 minutes of deleted scenes and that’s it. Where’s the commentary? Where’s anything offering some depth and real behind the scenes information? Disappointing considering this is a Jodie Foster film…
The Brave One really wants to rise above its exploitation film roots but it just never gets there, and to make things worse it doesn’t embrace those roots either. It just floats somewhere in the middle. Foster and Howard are good together in this film and they make it worth a rent.
Overall (Not an Average) 6/10
The Movie 6.5/10
The Video 9/10
The Audio 8.5/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 4/10
Overall (Not an Average) 6/10