The Brave One
Directed By: Neil Jordan
Starring: Jodie Foster, Terence Howard, Nicky Katt, Mary Steenburgen, Naveen Andrews
In The Brave One, Jodie Foster plays Erica Bain, the host of an NPR-esque talk radio program focusing on New York. Her world is turned upside down when she and fiancé, David (Andrews), are attacked and savagely beaten while walking their dog at night. David is killed and Erica is hospitalized for a number of weeks. Returning home, Erica finds it difficult to work up the courage and strength to even step outside. Frustrated by her own helplessness and haunted by the loss of her fiancé, Erica impulsively purchases a handgun. When she stumbles across a robbery-homicide, she finds herself in a position to use it and then instinctively covers her tracks. Erica becomes increasingly emboldened, begins wandering the streets at night, and is involved in a few more shootings of low-life characters. Each time, she is strangely horrified by her own behavior and cannot understand why her hands are not shaking and nobody is stopping her. As Erica's body count increases, Detective Mercer (Howard), a fan of her radio show who saw her unconscious in the hospital after her assault, begins to piece together that the shootings are the work of a vigilante. He strikes up a conversation with her outside one of the crime scenes, and they become friendly. In the meantime, he is collecting evidence from the various vigilante slayings, and when a witness identifies a woman at the scene of one of the shootings, Mercer begins to suspect Erica may be hiding something.
While a Joel Silver-produced genre revenge flick may seem like a strange project for Neil Jordan to helm, Erica in The Brave One is very much of a piece with the conflicted irrational characters at the heart of many of Jordan's films. This inner turmoil and self-examination as embodied effectively by Foster is what sets The Brave One apart from most of its vigilante/revenge genre counterparts. Unfortunately, the dash of complexity is not done justice in an ending that amounts to a cop-out. Without spoiling it, all I will say is that it is a credit to the very high level of acting skill on display from both Foster and Howard that the climactic moments of the film even come close to working. While Jordan certainly laid enough groundwork throughout the film that the ending did not come out of the blue, it does not quite live up to the promise of what has come before.
That being said, there is much to admire about the film inclusive of the lead performances and the cinematography. Jordan and Cinematographer Phillipe Rousselot shot with primarily long anamorphic lenses which resulted in minimal depth of field, frequently isolating the characters in the frame. This manner of photography sometimes angers production designers since so much of their work is out of focus but it proves to be an effective stylistic choice that underlines Erica's sense of isolation and disconnection. The color scheme favors cool blue tones and is generally muted. The muted effect is accomplished primarily through the production and costume design without desaturating the photography, resulting in a stylized look that does not tilt too far way from realism.
The 16:9 enhanced 2.4:1 transfer represents the film's cinematography effectively. The lack of deep focus sometimes makes it seem less sharp than other recent films, but this is not the fault of the video presentation, and detail is actually quite good. My only minor complaints are that contrast during some of the night scenes seems a bit artificially boosted, and compression occasionally has trouble rendering some of the visible film grain.
The English Dolby Digital 5.1 track is a solid, open, and dynamic presentation. Directionality is used sparingly, although some of the sequences or Erica wandering the city recording sound effects for her radio show are impressively dimensional. Dolby Digital 5.1 alternate language dubs are available in French and Spanish.
All of the extras and promotional material are presented in letterboxed 4:3 video with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.
From the Special Features menu, the first extra is I Walk the City, a 21 minute and 38 seconds featurette covering the film's production. While largely assembled from on-set interviews as is typical of electronic-press-kit materials, this featurette has a bit more depth than the traditional promotional fluff piece. After a short introduction, the featurette is broken up via on-screen titles (but not, alas, on-disc chapter stops) into three sections. First up is Evolution of the Brave One, which focuses on how the project came together including the evolution of the screenplay inclusive of the contributions of the two credited writers with input from the producers and directors. City as a Character focuses on the Production Design and the use of New York locations. Patience and Endurance: The Actors focuses on Howard and Foster, with details on their working methods and their thoughts on the characters they play in the film. On camera interview participants include Foster, Executive Producer Joel Silver, Neil Jordan, Producer Susan Downey, Screenwriter Roderick Taylor, Screenwriter Cynthia Mort, Terence Howard, Executive Producer Herb Gains, Production Designer Kristi Zea, Director of Photography Phillipe Rousselot, Location Manager Robert T. Striem, and Police Consultant Neil Carter.
The second choice from the Special Features Menu is Additional Scenes. This consists of five deleted or extended scenes running a total of six minutes and 26 seconds. They are not selectable individually from the disc menu, but they are individually chapter encoded. Descriptions are as follows:
- Sequence of Erica walking the streets of New York with her microphone and recorder during the day.
- Nicole visits Erica after the assault, expresses concern over her health, and tries to coerce her into joining a self-defense class.
- An extension of the scene between Detective Mercer and his ex-wife where she drops another personal bomb-shell on him
- Mercer listens to a tape of Murrow's wife
- Mercer inquires by phone about the status of the investigation into the assault of Erica and David
- DVD Trailer for Michael Clayton (32 seconds)
- DVD trailer for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (32 seconds)
- Theatrical teaser for Get Smart (one minute fourteen seconds)
- DVD trailer for Shoot 'Em Up (36 seconds)
The film is packaged in a standard Amaray-style case with no inserts. The Cover image is a close-up of Jodie Foster with a gun raised and her bangs covering her aiming eye.
The Brave One offers a somewhat fresh spin on a tired genre, but comes up short of greatness due to a cop-out ending. Foster and Howard give excellent performances that elevate the material way beyond the norm for the typical vigilante/revenge flick. The DVD is presented with solid audio and video quality with a handful of mildly interesting deleted scenes and a featurette that has a little more depth than a typical electronic press kit piece, but not enough to be comprehensive.