“The Brave One” portrays the aftermath of the brutal murder of Erica Bain’s husband, and the easily mocked title refers to Erica’s slow recovery from the shock after the execution. While “brave” is a decent adjective to describe Erica, several other adjectives would have been equally apt. Because I’m in a helpful mood, here are a few suggestions:
“The Unlucky One”
“The Brave One” is a movie Lemony Snicket could love, as Erica goes through quite an impressive series of unfortunate events.
Jodie Foster admirably portrays Erica, getting all her money’s worth out of her tear ducts and pout as she goes through what must be the worst month in history. First, she and her husband (played by Naveen Andrews of “Lost”) are brutally attacked by some mean-spirited and downright nasty Latinos. Then, she happens to be alone in a convenience store when a ticked-off fat guy shoots his cashier wife. Then her cell phone goes off in said convenience store as she’s trying to hide. Then she’s left alone on a subway with knife-wielding and morally questionable black men who plan to rape her with a scalpel. Also, she lives in a really bad apartment in New York City and has a really unflattering haircut.
Suffice it to say, director Neil Jordan’s New York City is more reminiscent of Gotham City than an NYC that anyone’s ever lived in. It truly makes you wonder how anyone, let alone millions of Americans, could live in the city longer than a month without going through some misfortune by the hand of an unruly minority.
“The Obvious One”
One of the most frustrating things about “The Brave One” is how heavy-handed every line and action is. Terrence Howard’s first scene shows him comforting an orphaned child: He’s nice and caring underneath that rough exterior! Erica tells her husband that she loves him more than anything, and he says it’s the nicest thing she’s ever said to him — but then he gets killed, so it’s sad!
The film also covers just about every “I miss a dead person” cliches: answering machines with his voice, photos, meaningful objects and “our song.”
The lack of respect for the audience runs all the way to the editing room, as the choppy editing style (which is all the rage these days) continually flashes back to remind viewers of things they already know and remember.
The resulting film inspires pity for its star, Foster, who delivers a relatively understated and fierce performance that is way too good for the least subtle plot of all time. Foster admirably transforms from bereaved widow to tough mama, although by the end, it seems fully possible she might put on a cape and call herself Catwoman.
And as if the plot wasn’t transparent enough, the trailer for the movie shows the pivotal line (“I want my dog back!”) which represents the final plot twist that takes place one hour and 57 minutes into the film.
“The Morally Certain One”
“The Brave One” doubles as an action thriller and an advertisement for the right to bear arms.
The film addresses extremely tricky questions — gun control, minority stereotypes, the death penalty — and emerges with such moral conviction that it’s hard to believe a debate on these issues could last longer than a minute. “The Brave One” urges revenge when the legal system fails, illegal gun trade when you have to wait an entire month for legal processes and a general fear of groups of more than two men who aren’t white.
The final plot twist involves Howard’s policeman, who, up to the final scene, was the only character who saw shades of gray. Of course, he eventually gives in, implying that even the most level-headed person would reach the same conclusions the writers advocate.
“The Ridiculous One”
Except perhaps for Foster’s commanding performance, there are few, if any, reasons to see “The Brave One.” It’s the type of movie where characters say meaningful things in a room by themselves and horrible misfortunes become funny instead of sad, ultimately rendering it “The One Not Worth Seeing.”