Monday, February 25, 2008

The Brave One (2007)


Okay I've been interested in this film since it came out, but never got a chance to see it in the theaters. I've been a fan of the "vigilante" movie genre since I was a young teenager. I remember such films as "The Exterminator", "Savage Streets", "Death Wish", and all their subsequent sequels. The one that stands above it is the original "Death Wish" with Charles Bronson. Death Wish which was made in 1974 depicted a New York City in decay, and one spiraling down into chaos. Having grown up in NY at that time I do remember the graffiti on the trains, the urine smelling subways, and the violence that seemed to happen everyday. "The Brave One" on the other hand takes place in modern day NYC. Hence the problem. Neil Jordon who is the director of "The Brave One" seems to harken back to those days, but keeps it in the present time. I'm not saying NYC is a big love fest now, but it isn't what it once was, and that's where I feel that the film fails. The days of the dimly lite streets of NYC and the story of criminals being everywhere seems to be paranoia fueled by 911 helplessness.

What made "Death Wish" more provocative was the time that it came out in. Michael Winner's depiction of NYC was spot on, and audiences tapped into that. Now with the proliferation of guns, and NYC's successful fight on crime "The Brave One" rings false. Sure there are good performances in the film, and I like how Jodie Foster devolves into a person consumed with fear to an avenging angel. Yet this movie wants to be more then a "vigilante" movie, and in reality that is what it just is. All the films I've mentioned above have things in common. Our hero or heroine is dealt a tragic blow. A family wiped out, a family member raped, or a friend savagely attacked & killed. These scenarios set us up for the pay back, which our character does. Our hero has to kill, because of the brutality of the crime. The criminals have to die, and we the audience need to condone it because of the horrible act we saw earlier.

The cinematography in "the Brave One" is slick, and the production values are top notch, but most of the films I mentioned above were done on low budgets. It's an easy genre to duplicate, and has been a successful one for a number of years. Dustin Hoffman did an interesting film called "Straw Dogs". "Straw Dogs" was directed by Sam Peckinpah, and he did a better job at showing the duality of violence then "The Brave One" does.

Another thing is that "the Brave One" wants to be an exploitative film, and one with a meaning. My argument is that you can dress up a movie however you like. You can get stars like Jodie Foster, & Terrance Howard, and you can even give it slick production values, but it's still a "vigilante" film. It still deals with the common denominator and that is revenge. Dressing it up in other clothing still doesn't make it a good film. Half the audience goes to watch a vigilante film to see the bad guys get there’s and the other half go to see how our hero comes out.

I really liked the performances in this film, but somehow the story didn't feel too real. It felt as though it was feeding the public a bunch of paranoia, which if you really wanted that all I would have to do is watch my local TV news.

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