After thugs beat her fiancé (Naveen Andrews) to death and give her a beating that temporarily puts her in a coma, New York radio host Erica (Jodie Foster) does the customary thing: She waits to hear from the police. But she never gets satisfactory answers. So she buys a gun, apparently for her own protection.
But when she unwittingly witnesses a brutal murder in an all-night convenience store, Erica rushes into action. She has made her first killing. Soon, she starts offing criminals convinced that she is saving lives.
That's when detective Mercer (Terrence Howard) enters the scene.
The Brave One stars two-time Oscar winner Foster, who has effectively played the woman under attack in the hit films Flightplan and Panic Room.
If you compare The Brave One to the best work of British director Neil Jordan -- especially to his End of the Affair and Crying Game -- you may conclude that the new film lacks the punch and stomach-knotting situations.
But compare it to most other vigilante films, and it emerges as a more interesting product mainly because of a solid performance by Jodie Foster, ably supported by Terrence Howard as a conscientious detective whose personality changes with a jolt at the very end.
It was among a dozen high profile films including Shekhar Kapur's Elizabeth: The Golden Age and David Cronenberg's Eastern Promises that premiered at the 32nd Toronto International Film Festival. Both Jordan and Foster declared at the press conference that the film does not glorify the vigilante cult, and Foster's character is driven with angst over her newly acquired skills to kill the would be killers. But most critics and reporters at the press conference seemed unwilling to accept the arguments, saying that the film was not clear about its moral position.
Foster added that what intrigued her most about the role was the questions it could make people ask: if pushed, should one push back? And just how much should one wait? And how far and how hard should we take on the would be killer?
What makes the film superior to other vigilante films is that The Brave One is also a bit of a detective film -- the cat and mouse game here is enlivened by the fact that the killer (Foster) is also a radio reporter. That means she could meet the homicide detective and slyly try to find out how much he knows. Those scenes are among the film's best.
But how one wishes that Jordan had a more plausible and intriguing screenplay to work on. The idea of a woman being turned into a vigilante after she and her fiancé are viciously mugged strains the credibility a bit.
When Erica starts looking out for possible victims and enjoys the killing, one wishes the film could have devised scenes that take us into her soul.
Once the killing spree continues, the film becomes too far stretched. We can also predict what would happen next when the detective tells her of his frustrations over a mob man who is guilty as sin in many murders but gets away with the help of his smart lawyer.
Despite all the weakness, the film is not boring. It may trouble us a bit, especially the ending which was quite unexpected, but is a fast-paced thriller.
Naveen Andrews, well liked for his work in the TV series Lost, has a top billing -- third, following Foster and Howard. But you see Andrews for only a few minutes. His character David Kirmani is bumped brutally some 10 minutes into the film. You wonder whether his role is resurrected through flashbacks but it isn't. Worse, Andrews looks passionless when he shares kisses with Jodie Foster. And for a man who is discussing wedding plans with his fiancé, he looks too gloomy. What might have gone wrong, we wonder. Perhaps some of his footage got cut in the editing room?
He did far more interesting work in the recent Jag Mundhra film Provoked playing an abusive husband. The Brave One, though, is expected to be one of the more profitable films of the season.