Well, how to put this delicately?
I hate hate hate hate HATE this movie, with every last fiber of my being. I hated it the first time that I saw it and I hated it when I recently rewatched it and right now, I’m hating the fact that I even decided to review this damn film because it means that I’m going to have to think about it. I’m going to try to get this review over with quickly because, with each minute that I think about this film, I doubt my commitment to cinema. That’s how much I hate this movie. If I’m not careful, I’m going to end up joining a nunnery before I finish this review…
So, in The Brave One, Jodie Foster plays Erica Bain. Erica lives in New York and hosts one of those pretentious late night radio shows that are always popular in movies like this but which, in real life, nobody in their right mind would waste a second listening to. Erica spends her time musing about life in the big city and hoping that we can all just love one another and expressing a lot of other thoughts that sound like they’ve been stolen from an automated twitter account.
Erica also has a boyfriend. His name is David and he’s played by Naveen Andrews. That means that he looks good and he has a sexy accent and when he first shows up, you hope that he’ll stick around for a while because otherwise, you’re going to have to listen to move of Erica’s radio monologues. But nope — one night, while walking through Central Park, David and Erica are attacked. David is killed. Erica is raped. And their dog is taken by the gang!
(And the film doesn’t seem to know which it thinks is worse…)
When Erica gets out of the hospital, she is, at first, terrified to leave her apartment. Or, at least, she’s terrified to leave her apartment for about five minutes. But then she does find the courage to go outside and, of course, the first thing she does is buy a gun. At first, she’s buying the gun for her own state of mind but, almost immediately after purchasing her firearms, she happens to stumble across a convenience store robbery.
Bang! Bang! Erica’s a vigilante now!
But, of course, she’s not really sure if that’s what she wants to be. Even though she eventually ends up sitting on a subway and waiting for a guy to approach her so she can shoot him, Erica is still never really that comfortable with the idea of seeking vengeance. And this is why I hated The Brave One. The film is so damned wishy washy about Erica’s motivations. Instead of allowing Erica to get any sort of satisfaction or emotional fulfillment out of her actions, The Brave One has her constantly doubting whether or not violence is the answer. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that violence is the answer. But if you’re going to make a film about a female vigilante who is out looking for vengeance, why don’t you at least allow her to get some sort of empowerment out of her actions? That doesn’t mean that the film itself can’t be ambiguous about what she’s doing. But by having Erica constantly questioning her actions, it makes her into a weak character and it lets the men who raped her and the ones who subsequently threaten to do the same off the hook. It allows them to be seen as victims, as opposed to products of a society where men are raised to believe that women will never fight back.
There’s a far superior New York-set film that has almost the same plot as The Brave One. The title of that film was Ms. 45. It was made for a hundred times less money than The Brave One and, at the same time, it was and remains a hundred times better. (I previously wrote about Ms. 45 and The Brave One in my essay, Too Sordid To Ever Be Corrupted.)
The difference between the two films can be summed up by the film’s tag lines. The Brave One was advertised with, “How many wrongs to make it right?” Ms. 45 was advertised with: “She was abused and violated … IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN!” Ms. 45 features a vigilante who never doubts her actions and, as a result, she becomes a symbol not of violence but of empowerment. Meanwhile, Jodie Foster is so constantly wracked with guilt and doubt that the film almost seems to be criticizing her for not staying in her apartment and trusting the police (represented by Terrence Howard and Nicky Katt) to do their job.
Oh! And, of course, at the end of the film, Erica gets her dog back. Because nobody ever permanently loses their dog in a big budget studio film…
And really, that’s why The Brave One is such a failure. It takes a subject that was tailor-made for the grindhouse and attempts to give it the slick and self-important studio approach. And part of that approach is that no one can be offended. This is a film that both wants to celebrate and condemn at the same time.
And that’s why I say, “Give me Ms. 45!”
At least that movie knows what it wants to say…