It’s not spoiling the plot to say Erica’s fiancée (played by Lost’s Naveen Andrews) is murdered before we even get to know him. That senseless act of violence causes Erica (Foster), who was gravely wounded in the attack, to go into shutdown mode upon returning home to their shared apartment after an extended stay in the hospital. Erica sees threats around every corner and shadows play havoc with her nerves. But then after a short period where she hits rock bottom, Erica comes to understand she’s dooming herself to a lifetime of living in fear if she doesn’t stop playing the victim. When she realizes she’s strong enough to take matters into her own hands and can actively pursue the men responsible without involving the police, a switch gets flipped on that’s impossible to shut off.
Erica takes it upon herself to patrol and protect the city she loves, dishing out her own form of justice without the criminals having the benefit of their day in court. Yet this form of revenge against random criminals isn’t sweet for Erica. Instead, being the self-appointed executioner of gang bangers and the like becomes like a drug she can’t get enough of.
Jodie Foster is completely believable as a New York radio show host who deals with the sudden devastating loss of the man she loves by the most aggressive means available: becoming a vigilante. Initially unsure how to even hold a gun, Erica evolves to the point where the gun is almost a natural extension of her arm – a lethal outlet for dispersing her grief and fear. Yet even in the grimmest circumstances, Foster’s portrayal of Erica never wanders into the revenge-film cliché territory. There’s a lot going on below the surface with this character, and Foster does a fantastic job of displaying Erica’s heartbreak, psychological breakdown, determination, and even courage.
Equally up to the task is Oscar-nominated actor Terrence Howard (Hustle & Flow) who's having a good 2007 with strong performances in this film, The Hunting Party and Pride. Together onscreen, these two are a formidable team. Foster and Howard feed off of one another, upping each other’s game and delivering intense, powerful performances.
The Brave One is more than just a revenge thriller. It’s a thought-provoking, intricate examination of how a violent act forever changes a normal, average woman into someone driven to commit dangerous acts in order to not just survive but overcome fear. The film does cover some familiar territory while following Foster as a vigilante, but the terrific performances and the realism of the story rise above the standard fare. If it weren’t for an ‘only in Hollywood’ twist toward the end, The Brave One would be one of the best films of the year. As it is, The Brave One is a smart thriller featuring one of Jodie Foster’s best performances.
The Brave One was directed by Neil Jordan and is rated R for strong violence, language and some sexuality.