Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Brave One. Out now. (***3/10)

When I was a kid, I was convinced that the most dangerous person on Earth was Angela Lansbury. Not because I had seen her crazy-scary performance in The Machurian Candidate, but because everywhere she went, a murder was committed. Usually someone close to her. Don't go on that cruise, Jessica Fletcher! People will DIE. That role has now been taken up by Jodie Foster in The Brave One. This movie almost definitely has the worst movie title of all time. The Brave One? Who would ever watch something called that? Unless it's a bunch of kids, and The Brave One is the title of a Nickelodeon after-school special where a young man finally learns to stand up to bullies. But the title here is meant to be slightly ironic, which would be fine if it wasn't so lousy. Jodie Foster plays a radio DJ who has gone her entire life never finding any trouble, about to get married to her boyfriend, until the couple is mugged and her boyfriend is killed. Then, all of a sudden, she becomes an absolute magnet for trouble. Murders are committed in front of her, tough guys harass and attack her. I guess violence is much like breaking the seal when you drink. Once it happens once, it will happen every six minutes for the rest of your life until you stop.

Of course, with all this fear, she purchases a gun. And when violence finds her now, she is ready to respond with more violence of her own. Which escalates into vigilante justice, Charles Bronson with a pretty face and an awful haircut. She kills muggers, murderers, you name it. Terrence Howard plays a cop who is on the trail of the vigilante killer and who is also sort-of involved with Foster. He is one of those amazing movie cops who can make enormous leaps in logic to come to the exact right conclusion with no help from the other officers or from actual reasoning. He is also one of those amazing movie cops who are completely oblivious of the most obvious things that are right under his nose. Example: He spends the whole movie hanging out with the killer he is pursuing. She says weird things, knows too much about some stuff, seems jumpy at the mention of other stuff. But only when he hears an elevator door bing while he's talking to her on the phone, and then hours later finds a dead body that's merely a few thousand yards from some elevators, does he maybe start to clue in. EVERY dead body will be within a few thousand yards of some elevators. It's a CITY.

The end makes no sense. I know real police work is not like CSI, but I know enough about powder burns and gunshot residue and the analysis of ballistics to know that the scenario that plays out would never work in a million years. Nor should it. The ethical dilemma faced by Howard at the end is akin to the one at the end of the Charles Bronson classic Death Wish. And, basically this is the same movie. But it tries so hard to be something more, and sadly this ruins Jodie Foster. Jodie Foster is one of the top five actresses in the world in terms of talent, and yet, shockingly, she is the worst part of this movie! She looks so sketchy and freaky that anyone would immediately think "killer" when looking at her, the emotions she is called upon to produce never once ring true, and her connection with Howard feels so forced and unnatural that we really don't care about either of them in the end. This movie really wants to have a message, and deliver that message they have. Here it is: "Don't rent me".

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