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HTF Blu-Ray Review: The Brave One (1 Viewer)

PatWahlquist

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The Brave One (Blu-Ray)

Studio: Warner Home Video
Rated: R (strong violence, language and some sexuality)
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
HD Encoding: 1080p
HD Video Codec: VC-1
Audio: Dolby True HD English 5.1; Dolby Digital English 5.1; French 5.1; Spanish 5.1
Subtitles: English; French; Spanish.
Time: 122 minutes
Disc Format: 1 SS/SL Blu-Ray disc.
Case Style: Keep case
Theatrical Release Date: 2007
Blu Ray Release Date: February 5, 2008

Erica Bain (Jodie Foster) and her fiancée’ David (Naveen Andrews) are walking their dog through Central Park in New York City when a trio of thugs robs and beats them. David is killed, and Erica barely survives. When she finally awakens three weeks later to find her world catastrophically changed, she is left a shell of the person she was. Her work is walking the streets of the city, collecting the various sounds of the subways, parks, streets and mechanics that comprise the bustling metropolis. She takes these sounds and turns them into a radio show with her narrating the recordings and commenting on city life. After the assault, she finds she can barely leave her apartment as she is stricken with fear. She eventually overcomes this fear, replacing it with an anger she can’t quit and a handgun. At a convenience store one night, a distraught husband guns down his soon-to-be ex-wife and he is going to kill Erica, but she pulls the gun and drops the perp. An emotionally weary and morally righteous NYPD homicide cop, Shawn Mercer (Terrence Howard), catches the convenience store case where things just don’t seem to add up. Soon, Erica is forced into situations that require her to stand up or become the victim yet again. While she does, Shawn befriends Erica, appreciating her loss and wanting to help her. Erica continues her vigilante spree to right her self-perceived wrongs, and Shawn is making the connections that may eventually pit the two against one another.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a good revenge flick, and I thought this may be the one. By that, I mean we always seem to be presented with a “hero” (and I use that term very loosely) who has some type of psychological impairment that is driving them to commit these violent acts. Erica doesn’t have that mental illness before the attack that leaves her fiancée’ murdered, but she cracks when she realizes the cops will be of no help in a city of eight million and triple digit murders. In these stories, the “hero” is driven by a single minded purpose: to eradicate fear. Fear inside of them, fear of those around them and fear in society. In Erica’s case, she makes this leap pretty quick as she goes from barely being able to leave her apartment following her release from the hospital to following a shady thug into a back alley to buy a hot gun. While the story would have been better served spending more time on this transition, it doesn’t completely destroy the picture.
Erica’s new crusader role consumes her mentally and physically (more make-up and black clothes, of course) as we watch what was a loving and caring woman become a creature of the night. It would have been far more interesting to see her stay in the types of outfits we see her in at the beginning of the picture as she carries out her spree as a means to further suggest her fractured psyche. She becomes bolder in her deeds and by doing so she asks for the attention of the law (the oh-so-usual fatal flaw of a vigilante or a serial killer: they want to be found out). A more interesting avenue would have been for her to avoid the cop entirely, allowing Mercer to put the case together following the facts and his gut.

I have been ruminating on the messages being sent by several pictures I have seen this past year, including There Will Be Blood, No Country for Old Men, my recently reviewed The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and now The Brave One. With the first three pictures, we are seeing an exciting resurgence of the American western distilled through the lens of post- 9/11 and post-millennial psyche. Our “heroes” in these pictures are bad men (and now, women) for the most part, yet we find ourselves identifying with them as a means to lash out at common enemies in our society: terrorism, the government, a rise in violent crimes and the dour malaise of a seven year war. We see Erica, and Anton Chigurh, and Daniel Plainview, and even Jesse James as somewhat noble in their individual expressions of how to right wrongs committed by the world around us and to just get ahead. While this identification temporarily thrills us, we are just as quickly sickened by the means in which it is displayed: cold, vicious violence.

The Brave One comes off as the precocious little sister to the other three, but Erica can hang with boys. As I said earlier, I thought the story needed to spend more time on Erica’s transformation into vigilante. Since the poster and press on the movie clearly suggest she’s going to be a vigilante, there is no chance we’d think anything else would have happened in the convenience store scene. We are never given the opportunity to decide if she had bought the gun for self defense or even just piece of mind. The movie itself, directed by Neil Jordan, glosses over this transition and leaves the emotional impact to Erica several kills down the road. As it progresses, and Erica’s outward appearance grows darker, I half expected her to don cape and cowl and call Mercer “Commissioner”. In the end, The Brave One makes excuses for its “heroine” by basically asking us, “What else is she supposed to do?”, where the other three just show us bad, evil men trying to contribute, in their own way, to the American Experience. This lack of remorse on their part sets their respective pictures on a much higher, and rewarding, dramatic level.


Video:
Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 11-S1 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 1080p. I am using a Sony Playstation 3 Blu-Ray player while a Denon 3808CI does the switching and pass through of the video signal. I am utilizing the HDMI capabilities of each piece of equipment.

The Blu-Ray disc is in the VC-1 codec presented at 1080p with an aspect ratio of 2.40:1. Sharpness and detail are a bit soft, but for this release it contributes to a very film-like presentation. Black levels are thick and dense showing good depth and detail. The picture captures a wide array of the colors in New York City, and each is presented accurately, never too bold or washed out. Jordan does some interesting things in his shot compositions, always including some form of architecture in the frame so we start to take NYC as a character in and of itself. Film grain is apparent, but I did not notice any video noise or artifacts, nor did I notice any edge enhancement. This is a fine looking HD transfer and goes to show how inconsistent Warner is being with their releases when you compare this to The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.


Audio:
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack was attained by the HDMI connection of the Sony Playstation 3 to the Denon 3808CI.

Warner again shows inconsistency with their releases, but again, with this one, it is to our benefit. The Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is a very immersive yet subtle presentation that gives an amazing depth of field. Each of the channels is filled with information to place us in the center of the action. LFE’s are beautifully blended in with the highs and mids, yet still have an adequate rumble when necessary. The movie uses a song by Sarah Mclachlan and when it keys up it literally washes out at you making me think she was standing right in front of me. The track is bold when it needs to be putting its directional effects to great use. There is a tonal consistency to the TrueHD soundtrack that just seemed to be missing from the lossy DD track. Sound design itself is also impressive as part of the story revolves around Erica’s collection of the city’s sounds. Her narrations coupled with these sounds and intimately presented here make you think it’s just you listening to her on a pair of high end headphones.


Bonus Material:

Behind the Story: I Walk the City (21:41, in HD): Cast and crew discuss the film, its themes, the story and the shoot. This is usual EPK type stuff.

Additional Scenes (6:45, in SD): a few of these scenes contribute to what I was saying that Foster’s character needed: more transition time. It also adds a bit to Howard’s character.


Conclusions:
A nice looking video presentation coupled with a dynamite Dolby TrueHD track boost up my mediocre thoughts on the film itself and a weak set of extras.

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