It's the title which first strikes you about Neil Jordan's latest offering. Detailing one woman's transformation from naïve, romantic city dweller to cold, callous killer, 'The Brave One' is a deliberately provocative moniker for this dark urban thriller focussed on a radio DJ-turned- vigilante. How brave is it to seek revenge and, as the tagline goes, how many wrongs make a right?
As ever with a Neil Jordan movie, these kinds of questions crop up throughout, and over the course of its 119 minutes the Dublin director demands that his audience bring their brain firmly with them into the auditorium.
The plot centres on New York radio host Erica Bain (Foster), who lives a somewhat idyllic existence in a city that deeply inspires her working and personal life. Her life, however, drastically changes after she and her fiancé, David (Naveen Andrews), are brutally attacked during an evening walk in Central Park. David is killed and Erica spends three weeks in a coma before awakening to discover that the person she once thought she was has forever been erased, leaving in its place a new internal character deeply traumatised, and whose fascination with New York has evolved into fear.
In order to cope, she becomes a stranger to herself, purchases a gun and begins to roam the streets, looking to take her revenge on the men who were responsible for killing her true love. Unintentionally she finds herself in a serious of violent situations where she finds it increasingly easy to pull the trigger, and so begins on a path of vigilante-style killings. These murders fascinate the city and the New York media, putting pressure on NYPD Detective Mercer (Howard), who is trying to catch this vigilante before 'he' kills again.
Jordan's movie is a compelling psychological feast and, although predictable, is nonetheless gripping in its execution. Credit for this lies squarely with Foster, who continues a run of sublime performances. As mentioned, Jordan poses a series of questions to the audience, and the film balances on our believing that a woman could carry out these attacks and that a person so levelled could change in personality so rapidly. In this regard Foster's performance is key, and the 45-year-old excels as Erica, conveying to screen the shift in her character as her internal moral debate and fragility becomes increasingly etched on her face.
Terrence Howard is also excellent as Detective Mercer and, as Foster's character shifts, so too does his, climaxing in a dramatic personal alteration which once more poses serious questions to the audience.
Jordan's gift lies here. While he crafts a very watchable and entertaining movie, he constantly underpins the film with its central theme of change, focussing on how any incident in life, large or small, deeply impacts on our character and that the more traumatic the incident, the more violent our shift into a new shell.
This is conveyed not just in Foster and Howard's characters, but in the name of the section of the park where Erica and David are attacked; the change in format of Erica's radio show, and of course in the city itself. Though Jordan does not directly play on the post-11 September changes in New York, he opens the movie with a monologue from Foster on the changing face of the city, thus immediately bringing the topic of transformation to the forefront.
If there is one criticism however, it lies with an ending that seems to support the title's assertion: that vigilantism works and is an acceptable solution.
That aside, 'The Brave One' is nonetheless a compelling slice of cinema and one which will leave you with much food for thought long after the end credits have rolled.