The Brave One


by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

The Brave One is the "Jodie Foster as Charles Bronson" film.  Jodie plays a victim of urban violence. She lives through a brutal mugging which killed her fiancÚ and soul-mate. Her physical scars heal, but she has a difficult time re-entering the world because the beating left her with even greater emotional scars. In her job as a roving radio personality whose schtick is "reporter about town" in New York, she had come to love the Big Apple, but the mugging changed all that. In her recovery period she finds herself terrified of things which she had theretofore relished as part of the city's quotidian rhythms.

... A man comes close to her at high speed; she goes into panic mode, only to discover that the man is just an ordinary commuter rushing for his train ...

Her paranoia is enhanced by the realization that her assailants could know that she is alive, and that she may be able to identify them. When she can no longer live with the paralyzing fear of everyday existence, she gets herself a gun for protection. Because of the gun control laws in New York, she is forced to acquire a 9mm handgun on the black market.

She doesn't start out with a desire to be Charles Bronson. She's just protecting herself, and her career as a vigilante starts as an unavoidable matter of self-defense. She's in a convenience store during a robbery, hiding successfully until her cell phone goes off and the robber becomes aware of her presence. She knows she's in a life-or-death situation because she's already seen the robber gun down the store clerk without provocation, so she hides, waits, and is lucky enough to survive by getting the drop on the bad guy.  She has to fire three shots at close range to score a single hit, but she does get the job done.  Her black market gun gives her anonymity, so she just walks away from the crime scene.

It is not long before she is taking an increasingly bold and proactive role in vigilante justice, setting herself up as bait to invite thuggery, then exacting stern justice on the would-be thugs. Within a month or so, she has turned into Batman, no longer content to place herself in situations which invite criminal behavior, but now actively seeking out the city's lowlifes and whacking them by night. Her increasing confidence brings her closer to a head-to-head confrontation with the thugs who attacked her in the opening scene.

Balanced against Jodie's story is the tale of the cop who is investigating the vigilante murders. In fact, he becomes Jodie's close friend after coming into contact with her twice, in her twin roles as a radio interviewer and a victim of violence. He has no idea at first that she might be committing the crimes she's reporting on, but he's a dedicated and smart cop, and he gradually puts two and two together. Lacking any hard evidence, he arranges a meeting with Jodie and tells her indirectly, through a parable, that (1) he knows the score (2) he will bring her in, even if she is a friend, even if he sympathizes with her aims.

The ending of the film creates dramatic suspense from Jodie's pursuit of the baddies, and the cop's pursuit of Jodie.


I kind of liked the film, but I'm having a hard time articulating why, or even understanding why, because it is a film which eventually betrays its basic premise to create an audience-friendly ending, and that always bothers me. The audience is invited to wonder how the film's Gordian Knot can possibly be cut or untangled, given that Jodie has determined to kill her assailants, the cop has determined to bring her to justice, and Jodie has announced that she will accept the consequences, however the game plays out.

And then the script cheats.

After the film makes a painstaking effort to establish that the policeman is honest and incorruptible, thus assuring some kind of tragic ending for one or both of the sympathetic characters, it manages to resolve the situation simply by making him turn dishonest and corruptible.

See how easy scriptwriting can be, kids?

So, given this cheap bit of deus ex machina, why did I like the film? I'll offer two reasons.

(1) The film has a poetic tone and style to it. There are two good people in love with each other and the city. Only one survives. The other lives on in anguish, delivering haunting and highly articulate radio monologues about her feelings.  One good cop sympathizes with the victim, but can't let her use New York City as her personal hunting grounds.

One scene that is particularly memorable involves Jodie's fiancÚ being wheeled into emergency surgery. The film pictorializes what he's thinking of in his dying moments (making love to Jodie), but intercuts his tranquil thoughts with the grim reality of what is happening to him on the operating table, thus showing how the real events may be stimulating his subconscious. We see the doctors cut off his underpants in a frenetic rush to save his life, then we look into his mind, where he's removing Jodie's underpants in a tender memory. That scene is absolutely brilliant, as is the scene where Terrence tells Jodie what he knows without actually telling her anything.

(2) Terence Howard and Jodie Foster really make the movie work. Film this same script with Kari Wuhrer as the victim and Stephen Baldwin as the cop, and it could be just formulaic straight-to-vid fare, but Terrence and Jodie raise it to a different level. What's amazing to watch is that Terrence and Jodie are so similar as actors, especially considering that one is a black man and the other a white woman. It's like they are in one of those science fiction movies where the alien presence goes from body to body, because it seems like they are playing the same person in different bodies. Both of them are sensitive, soft-spoken, in control, refined, yet both of them have an intense volcano of emotions just below the surface, as reflected in their eyes. They are two of the very best actors in the "subtle underplaying" category, and that works perfectly in this movie.

Those elements make it a good movie, up to a point. Too bad it was not true to itself, because it might have been a classic.



* features have not yet been announced







3.5 James Berardinelli (of 4 stars)
3.5 Roger Ebert (of 4 stars)
2 BBC (of 5)
2 Guardian (of 5)
45 Rotten Tomatoes  (% positive)
56 (of 100)


Jodie Foster's performance has been nominated for a Golden Globe.





7.0 IMDB summary (of 10)
B Yahoo Movies







Box Office Mojo. It opened in the #1 spot in a slow post-summer weekend, and finished with $36 million. (Plus a similar amount overseas.)








  • Jodie Foster's character shows some flesh (one breast, side of hips). The strategic editing of the scenes smells of a body double.






Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:


Solid film partially ruined by a contrived ending which betrayed the film's basic premise.