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Braveheart?

Movies | Foster movie explores vengeance

Issue: "Survivors," Sept. 29, 2007

To me belongeth vengeance and recompense," says the Lord, yet victim-turned-vigilante Erica Bain (Jodie Foster) metes out her own brand of justice in The Brave One, joining the ranks of amateur avengers from Dirty Harry to Batman.

Director Neil Jordan's psychological thriller (rated R for strong violence, language, and some sexuality) takes a hard look at vengeance and probes the justice system's limitations. The film opens with Erica ending her shift as host of a public radio program. After work, Erica and her fiancé David (Lost's Naveen Andrews) playfully banter over plans for their upcoming wedding.

But later that night, on a walk through Central Park, three thugs pounce on the couple and brutally attack them. Erica survives the beating, but David does not. Her recovery is tortuously slow, and she finds herself gripped by fear of the city she once loved, afraid even to leave her apartment building. This fear prompts Erica to buy a gun. She soon finds herself killing a would-be attacker in self-defense. A later incident on the subway, reminiscent of New York's actual 1984 subway vigilante killings, leads to another shooting.

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The Brave One grapples with the pragmatics of justice and mercy. Brutal realism in the depiction of both violence and loss serve to make The Brave One no light viewing. In the end, the resolution reneges on promises made earlier in the film. But viewers will find an excellent springboard here for discussing who is ultimately responsible for settling the score.

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