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Warner Home Video presents
The Brave One Combo DVD and HD-DVD (2007)

"Cause of death could be the fall. Could be the crowbar stuck in his skull. I'd say 50-50 either way. Could be 70-30."
- Detective Vitale (Nicky Katt)

Review By: Mark Zimmer  
Published: February 18, 2008

Stars: Jodie Foster, Terrence Howard
Other Stars: Naveen Andrews, Nicky Katt, Mary Steenburgen
Director: Neil Jordan

MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, language and some sexuality
Run Time: 02h:02m:10s
Release Date: February 26, 2008
UPC: 085391139874
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- AA-A- C+

DVD Review

The advertising of The Brave One (not to be confused with Dalton Trumbo's bullfight drama of the same name) rather smacked of "Jodie Foster in Death Wish", and truth be told, that's not all that far off the mark. But when you have an actress of the caliber of Jodie Foster and a thoughtful director such as Neil Jordan at the helm, you can also expect there to be more substance present, and the picture doesn't disappoint in that respect either.

Foster stars as Erica Bain, a NPR-style radio host whose specialty is recording the sounds of her native New York City and offering commentary over it to her listeners. Things fall apart when she and her fiancee David (Naveen Andrews) are attacked in Central Park by a group of thugs. He's killed and she's left in a coma for three weeks, which leaves her in a fragile emotional state, barely able to function. Matters aren't helped any by the police, who don't seem to be putting any effort into catching the thugs. Suffering from agoraphobia, Erica feels completely unsafe and threatened whenever she leaves her apartment, so she acquires a black market 9mm pistol to give herself confidence. After she is forced to use the gun in self-defense several times, she starts to look for opportunities to use it, crossing over the line from victim to vigilante. Detective Sean Mercer (Terrence Howard) befriends Erica at the same time as he is looking for the vigilante killer, which leads to inevitable conflict.

Foster is the difference maker here, turning in a very powerful performance as Erica, moving from a confident innocence to broken paranoia to bitter gunslinging vengeance with aplomb, but also making the transitions seem perfectly natural. Killing doesn't come easy to her, at least at first, and even when she feels compelled to take the next steps and start hunting out criminals, she knows that she's transgressing. Howard does well with a thankless role as her moral compass (which she substantially ignores), almost making their relationship into a Dostoevskian dance between criminal and detective as his suspicions slowly take form.

Where the Charles Bronson picture and especially its sequels gloried in his vigilante killing, The Brave One is not so action-oriented. The shootings here are both bloody and ugly, and the deaths of even the most deserving of Erica's targets have a sense of repulsion about them that keeps this from being a standard-issue revenge thriller. There are some clear roots in Jacobean revenge tragedy, however, as Erica's killing visibly corrupts her until she can no longer recognize herself. Interestingly, the moment of clarity comes not in the act or in Erica's reflections upon her deeds, but in the course of her radio show. When the format of the show is suddenly changed to call-in by her ambitious producer, Erica comes to face the hideously monstrous reactions of her audience to her deeds. It's a painful and well-scripted moment that packs more of a punch than the violence does, holding a terrifying mirror up to Erica.

There are a few moments that seem just a shade too cute and writerly; for instance, the attacks on Erica and David take place at Stranger's Gate in Central Park, while Erica repeatedly refers to her present self as a stranger. The echoes to Camus and L'Etranger are too deliberate to have the proper resonance and feel forced. At least there is a recognition of the notorious Bernhard Goetz case and the furor it produced, and the film certainly takes seriously the legal, moral, and ethical issues connected with vigilantism; few characters have either clean hands or a clean conscience by the finish.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.40:1 - Widescreen2.40:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyesyes

Image Transfer Review: The HD transfer offers very good grain structure and solid definition of black levels in this dark, if not noirish, picture. There's good fine detail and texture through most of the running time, though a few sequences appear rather soft as an intentional stylistic choice. Closeups of Foster offer a huge amount of the detail and texture, at the same time making the painful transformations she undergoes all the more visceral. I didn't observe any significant edge enhancement or digital noise reduction, though there is a softness in early shots of the city that are consistent with Erica's somewhat romanticized viewpoint.

The standard definition side of this combo disc offers are quite good anamorphic widescreen transfer, though of course the definition of the black levels predictably suffers, and there are moments of modest aliasing and fine patterns that standard definition just can't handle properly. As anamorphic widescreen DVD transfers go, however, it's quite acceptable.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
English, French, Spanishyes

Audio Transfer Review: English, French, and Spanish audio tracks are presented in DD+, and the English track is also offered in TrueHD. Other than the sounds of gunfire, there isn't all that much impact to the soundtrack, though the ambient noise of a subway train offers plenty of bass. Dario Marianelli's ominously shifting score sounds quite good and offers most of the surround activity to be heard.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Animated menu
Scene Access with 31 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
5 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Elite
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: I Walk the City (21m:40s) takes Erica Bain's standard opening phrase to serve as the theme for a fairly fluffy documentary. There are some thoughtful observations from Foster and Jordan on the subject matter of the feature, and especially on important changes made to the script just before shooting, but too much of the running time is spent on cast and crew saying how great the others involved are.

More interesting is a set of five deleted scenes. The first offers more of a look at Erica wandering the city, and would have more clearly emphasized New York's role as a character in the piece. Erica's friend Nicole (Jane Adams) is still in the movie, though in the theatrical cut she's a useless appendage who disappears quickly; we see that she is a much better friend in a deleted scene where she tries to get Erica to stop hiding in her apartment and go out and do something. The other three scenes flesh out Mercer's character significantly. While one can see how the pacing probably would have been hurt by their inclusion, they're definitely worth watching.

The extras are included on both sides of the disc, though only the documentary is in HD on the HD DVD side.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

The Brave One offers a harsh but thoughtful look at vigilantism and the failures of law enforcement, with Foster's powerful performance serving as the lynchpin that makes it work as far more than a standard-issue action thriller.


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