Neil Jordan's The Brave One is one of those movies that comes along occasionally from some interesting filmmaker, like Cronenberg's A History of Violence or the Polishes' The Astronaut Farmer, that leaves one squinting at something that appears so straightforward, you wonder whether the makers are entirely serious. It's a bit like a Calvin & Hobbes strip from 15 years ago, in which Calvin followed up a grotesque, avant-garde snow sculpture ridiculing bourgeois tastes with a very traditional smiling snowman representing, Calvin said, "popular nostalgia for the simple values of rural America 50 years ago." Even so, he claimed his traditional snowman was "very avant-garde." How's that? Hobbes wondered. Confided Calvin: "It's secretly ironic."
What The Brave One shares with the other films mentioned above is a rigid adherence to convention more conventional than all but the most mechanical instances of its genre. The violence in Jordan's film, like the violence (and sex) in Cronenberg's, may shock or startle, but the plot seems rigorously calculated never to surprise. It almost leads you to expect a twist, and then the twist is that there is no twist. It does exactly what such movies do, and then it does it some more, and then it stops. Is it an exemplar of the genre, or a self-conscious deconstruction? It all depends on whether the snowman is smiling because he's smiling, or because he knows snowmen are supposed to smile.
Though reminiscent of such unrepentantly trashy fare as Death Wish and Ferrera's Ms .45, The Brave One, starring Jodie Foster, doesn't seem to want to be a trashy film. The thing is, it doesn't seem to want to be something else, either.
The Brave One reminds us—twice—that New York City is "the safest ...1
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The Brave One
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