What is fear? Is it a reactionary emotion that cultivates and develops in response to extenuating circumstances, or is it a latent monster simply waiting to rear its ugly head? Neil Jordan's The Brave One is a film that touches upon these issues while staring you in the face and boldly asking: "What would you do if somebody killed your loved one(s)?"
Erica Bain (Jodie Foster) quite literally walks New York City. She's a public radio show host that brings her listeners the sounds and ambiances of their beloved city - of her beloved city. With a job she enjoys and David (Naveen Andrews), a fiancé whom she adores, Erica seemingly leads a perfect life. All that changes in an instant, however, when one night David and Erica decide take an evening stroll in Central Park. They encounter a band of thugs who severely beat both of them, leaving David dead and Erica critically wounded. Upon recovery, Erica is a shell of her former self; she's shy, she's weak, and for the first time in her life, she’s scared.
Rather than slowly drive herself insane, Erica decides to do something drastic to try and overcome her fear: she buys a gun. At first, the gun is just for protection and reassurance, but when she's forced to use it to stop a late night convenience store robbery, Erica begins to experience curious sensations. As she's slowly pulled in by the alluring power of taking bad men's lives, Eric crosses the moral threshold between right and wrong, and in so doing, becomes a total stranger - even to herself. Erica “learns to live”; she goes back to work, she interacts with people, and she makes it back from the depths of her tragedy. The problem is, the dark and twisted path she’s taking in order to recover may be the last thing she ever does.
Jodie Foster is truly amazing to watch as she transforms Erica from giddy lover to traumatized victim, and then further still to chilling vigilante. Foster portrays each of these stages with astounding reality, and her character represents the unsettling possibility of what a potential tragedy could do to any one of us. Not to be outdone in the acting department is Terrance Howard, who's superb as the detective who becomes increasingly intertwined with Erica and her case, while remaining hot on the trail of the vigilante. As the bodies pile up, Detective Mercer finally begins to suspect Erica, and in testing her he is slowly pulled further into the moral grey area that torments her. Foster and Howard have a staggeringly real chemistry that makes their relationship extremely convincing, which is undoubtedly the main strength of the film. The tense moments Erica and Mercer share are indicative of two people treading on very fragile ground, and the heart of the film rests with these two characters who care for and respect each other, but ultimately, lie on opposing sides of the moral spectrum.
Violent, emotional and utterly uncompromising, The Brave One is a superb action thriller with the acting, writing and depth of a drama. The ending of the film could’ve been handled better, and it unfortunately does seem to contradict the very notions of right and wrong that it presents. However, the The Brave One still manages to succeed because it grounds itself in the frightful truth that Erica’ situation is unquestionably real. I read an interview in which Neil Jordan claims, “The film shouldn’t give you any answers, but it’ll ask a lot of questions.” Neil is right, and they’re the type of questions that can only truly be answered when faced with brutal tragedy, because, until then, how can one really know what stranger lurks beneath the surface, ready to pounce on the dormant fear within?
The special features section of The Brave One is a mixed bag of bitter sweets. It's only natural to highly anticipate the features of a film you enjoy, but when you realize there's only a paltry pair of features, it puts a bit of a damper on that excitement. The Brave One is exactly the type of film that makes for interesting actor/director commentaries, so it's a real shame Warner hasn't offered us any.
With that said, the first feature, "I Walk the City", is a glorious 23 minute look at how great a jam-packed features section would've been. See what I mean about bittersweet? "I Walk the City" contains some great interview snippets of Jodie Foster, Terence Howard and Neil Jordan, and all three of them are extremely captivating speakers who have equally interesting things to say. It's always great to hear the insight and interpretation of the people responsible for making a good flick, and this featurette does exactly that -- except it's merely a tiny dose of what could've been, and unfortunately, all it does is leave you wanting more.
The next and last feature is a 10 minute look at some of the deleted scenes, and all I'll say about them is that they prove how perfectly edited The Brave One is. Not one of the deleted scenes would've added anything to the film, more than a few of them are poorly acted and in general, they're just badly executed. Skip this section.
As disappointing as the special features of The Brave One are, the technical specs more than make up for their mediocrity. The HD video transfer is gorgeous and I had absolutely no complaints with the picture. Graininess is only present when intended, and the film is otherwise showered in cold blue hues and vivid bursts of color that'll no doubt satisfy your visual appetite. On the audio front, the Blu-ray disc offers both a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround track as well as a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, and both are fantastic. They won't blow you away with their presence, but they're subtly soothing and the music provides a perfect atmosphere and tone for the film.
Overall, I'm content with my purchase of The Brave One on Blu-ray disc, but that's because I enjoy the film and like to own movies in their HD format. Seeing as the special features section has only one worthy component, I can't recommend anybody buy The Brave One, unless they know they'll enjoy the film and watch it more than once. For everybody else, I suggest a rental, but don't take that as a negative because it's a rental of the highest quality.