It’s not often you encounter a film that conflicts you almost as much as its main character is conflicted, much less a film that leaves you in that state for well over a week. I purposefully took time away after watching The Brave One, a Jodie Foster film that just released on Blu-ray Disc, to see if the time away would give me some clarity about my opinion of it. On the one hand, the majority of The Brave One was a total chore to watch, mostly because it required far too much suspension of disbelief. On the other hand, the last 10 minutes left me with an “aha!” moment and somewhat redeemed the film. But even now, I don’t think I enjoyed the film, although I can respect what it did in terms of its Blu-ray presentation.
The Brave One tells the story of a talk-radio host (played by Foster) who is brutally attacked in Central Park as she walks with her boyfriend (played by Naveen Andrews, of LOST fame). After the death of her mortally beaten boyfriend, Foster enters a state of agoraphobia, which is quickly replaced by a state of paranoia, which then morphs into her becoming an armed vigilante on a quest for revenge. The speed with which this transition occurs is uncomfortably fast, and although the filmmakers were trying to turn the vigilante genre on its ear by placing a woman in the vigilante role, the fact that Foster’s transition is so fast and dramatic just requires a bit too much willing suspension of disbelief.
So, too, does the relationship Foster establishes with the detective investigating the deaths of Foster’s victims. Played by Terrence Howard, this detective is without a doubt the most compelling and well-acted character in The Brave One, but even he falls victim to the film’s disbelief curse, as a man this smart would under no circumstances act quite as he does at the end. The Brave One starts as a love story and amazingly ends as one too, providing the unique “aha!” moment that redeemed the movie somewhat for me. But even that moment wasn’t quite enough to compel me to recommend the film to friends and colleagues.
Now, I can unquestionably recommend the film to fans of the Blu-ray format, if for no other reason than the video and audio are absolutely phenomenal and showcase what Blu-ray is capable of delivering. The VC1-encoded 1080p picture has incredible clarity, with no detectable grain or black crush. Remarkably for a film that takes place largely in the shadows, even the darkest, brightest and highest-contrast scenes look crystal clear, which are areas in which many films fall victim to the dreaded grain.
The uncompressed audio is well implemented too, a fact that’s both expected yet refreshing in a film with this storyline. As a movie whose main character is a talk-radio host, The Brave One predictably relies on a lot of audio, both environmental and vocal. Whereas many movies focus on just the actors’ lines, however, The Brave One picks up on every minor environmental detail (much like Foster’s character), and it makes fantastic use of the surround-sound channels. To that end, then, The Brave One delivers where many Blu-ray fans want it to: the video and audio presentation.
Bonus feature buffs will find themselves out in the cold, however, as The Brave One only includes two. The first feature, I Walk The City (21:41, 1080p) is the requisite making-of featurette, complete with cast and crew interviews. Although the feature delves into such topics as the challenge of making a modern genre film and the desire to capture New York City not as a setting but as a character, the majority of I Walk The City comes off as little more than a tribute to director Neil Jordan. Truly, it’s almost as if the cast and crew were trying to get in good with Jordan so they could be involved in his next film. By the time the actors’ mini-bios come in at the 15-minute mark, your brain is completely numbed by the director fluffing, and when the 21-minute feature ends, it’s pretty clear that it’s probably been the longest 21 minutes of your movie-watching life.
The Additional Scenes (6:45, 480p) fare somewhat better, but not much. The five scenes contained in this bonus footage were clearly cut for a reason, either because they didn’t add much to the characters themselves or because they would have added too much to the plot and character back stories. So, while it’s easy to appreciate why the scenes got the axe, it’s still nice to see the two scenes that added a bit more depth to Terrence Howard’s detective. Again, Howard really makes this film.
But as excellent as he is, Howard can’t carry the full load, nor can his performance compensate for the disbelief required to actually think there’s a shred of believability in the film. I understand the “innovation” of using a female lead for a role of this nature. I respect the thought that Foster’s desire to keep on living is supposedly brave, even though her vigilante actions are far from it. But for all that understanding and respect, I still can’t recommend The Brave One as a piece of film. As a Blu-ray, sure; it’s multimedia aspects are great. But not as an entire package.
- Score: 6
- The Blu-ray presentation aspects are top notch, but the film itself is several notches below where we’d expect most Jodie Foster films to be.
— Jonas Allen