Monday, September 17, 2007

The Brave One

Who would have thought that at almost age forty-five, Jodie Foster could turn into an action star???

Yesterday, I saw The Brave One during a late evening showing. I'd turned down an invitation to see it Friday because it just didn't appeal to me. Then, last night, my manuscript was being recalcitrant, and I decided to give up the fight. Eastern Promises is only playing in Dallas right now, which was too far to go before the last showing so The Brave One won by default.

The plot of the film is straightforward if the emotional roadmap is not. Erica Bain lives with her fiancee David in New York, and they are planning their wedding. When walking their dog in Central Park one night, they are attacked by three muggers. David is killed, the dog is stolen and Erica ends up in a three-week coma.

The film does a great job of showing Erica's painful adjustment to life after the mugging. She had loved the city before she was attacked. Her job as a radio jock was one long song of praise for the streets and buildings she knew so well and wandered at will.

After the mugging--she is afraid of the city she once loved. She has trouble stepping outside of her apartment. The moment when she tries to go back on the air is so painful, you can't help but wince. Her interactions with police officers who mouth banal formulas like "I'm sorry for your loss," before delivering devastating news help the viewer to understand just how alone she really is.

I was in a serious automobile accident some years ago and was lucky to survive. Every night thereafter, falling asleep meant a recurring nightmare in which I relived the spinning of my car across several lanes of traffic after it was slammed by another vehicle. Each time the car came out of its spin, I saw the wall I hit head-on rising up in front of my windshield. Every single night I woke screaming.

Like Erica, I tried pills, but abandoned them after only three days. I opted to just tough it out. That period was the first time I ever took a bus in Dallas. I swore I would never drive again. Gradually the nightmares decreased to every other night and then once a week and finally every few months until they just disappeared. When the dreams faded, I took the insurance check and my courage in hand and purchased a new car.

Erica tries nicotine, pills and finally resorts to buying a gun illegally. The only false step in the film for me is how that pistol immediately provides her not only with the courage to go back out on the streets, but to return to roaming the streets at night. I found myself doubting it.

A chance encounter in a corner market at night changes Erica from victim to vigilante. Now she's actively seeking opportunities for vengeance by striking back at those who victimize the innocent.

She begins a cautious friendship with the cop hunting "The Subway Vigilante." Terence Howard is terrific as the detective who gradually realizes he may know the identify of the killer he is hunting.

The film wanders back and forth across the narrow line separating justice and vengeance. Unlike most vigilante films, it doesn't glorify violence. You feel Erica's pain as she tries to find the person she once was and finally has to accept that woman is gone forever. At the same time when she finally gets to speak the line, "I want my dog back," you can't help but feel a sense of righteousness.

The film was much better than I initially expected although I found the ending a bit too tidy. With people other than Foster and Howard and director Neil Jordan (who did The Crying Game), I suspect it would not have been anywhere near as well done.

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