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Rated 3.01 stars
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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Moral Dilemma
by Diana Saenger

Jodie Foster is becoming the queen of vigilante or fight-for-your life movies. In The Accused she's a rape victim outraged at the sentence her perpetrator receives. In Panic Room she's a mother who must protect her sick daughter against vicious intruders. In Flightplan she tries to convince the crew of an airline in flight that someone took her daughter. While her performance in those movies ranged from mediocre to good, Foster's portrayal of radio talk show host Erica Bain in The Brave One is exceptional.

Erica has a fascinating job. She prowls the streets of New York City day or night, carrying a tape machine and listening for sounds of the city which she can spin stories around. As she plays those sounds on her show "Street Walk," Erica’s ability to create captivating stories with her beguiling voice captures a faithful audience and earns accolades from her boss Carol (Mary Steenburgen).

Everything seems right in Erica's world, including her personal life. She's deeply in love and about to be married to David Kirmani (Naveen Andrews, Grindhouse). One night while walking in Central Park with David and her dog, they're cornered by a group of thugs who capture the dog, then begin to taunt Erica and David with threats to harm the animal. Finally, these thugs brutally beat Erica and David. Although Erica clings to life on a slim thread, David doesn’t make it.  

Once healed from her physical wounds, it's the emotional ones Erica can't handle. Not only does she suffer profound loss over the love of her life; she can't get the brutal attack out of her mind. Where she once found beauty and unforeseen uniqueness in her city, Erica now only feels fear and dread. She can't work and becomes a recluse, waiting on NYPD detective Sean Mercer (Terrence Howard) to crack the case and find her attackers.

As the wheels of justice turn slowly, Erica finds new strength in her own pursuit. After recognizing one of the attackers in a lineup, she refuses to ID him. She purchases an unregistered gun and sets out to avenge David's death herself.

During another attack she's forced to defend herself by killing someone. The first seconds after produce an earthquake of emotions. Frozen in a time warp that’s followed by thoughts over what’s  the right thing to do, Erica walks away. Like new oxygen to her soul, it’s the first inkling she can survive and be in control of her life again. Is this all because of the cold steel between her hands?

In no time at all Erica is a stalking night shadow, watching anything and everything that appears evil, and there are more killings. The word “vigilante” is broadcast on the airwaves and tops the daily newspapers. Mercer is going through the same pain of separation as Erica since his wife has left him; and he and Erica become close. When he begins to realize all is not right with his friend, the detective faces some tough decisions.

Foster comes across as so commanding here that it's enthralling. She layers her character so well the audience is constantly engaged in her dilemma -- sometimes rooting for her, and at other times aghast at what she does and curious about what the outcome will be.

"Erica recognizes that she was one person and then one day she woke up and became somebody else, a stranger, somebody who is different from anything she ever thought she could be," said Foster. "Perhaps you could assume that you would react differently…but until you’ve walked in her shoes, you just can’t know."

Howard is also exceptional. His role in Hustle & Flow earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor and brought recognition to his talents. As Detective Mercer, he reminds us of his acting abilities. Although this character has minimal range in his storyline, Howard heightens Mercer's moral conduct and creates curiosity concerning how he will handle different situations.

Director Neil Jordon does an excellent job of keeping the film taut and suspenseful, and the movie’s plot is enhanced by exceptional cinematography and locations.

My only disappointment with The Brave One involves the ending, which doesn't ring true to me. It’s my one complaint about this otherwise excellent film.

(Released by Warner Bros. Pictures and rated "R" for strong violence, language and some sexuality.)

Review also posted at

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