A brief rundown of the sights and sounds awaiting you in "The Brave One:"
"I WANT MY DOG BACK!!!!!" BLAM!! (Yup! Somehow STILL in the movie despite being such a laugh-generator in the trailers.)
Jodie Foster, upon being told she "doesn't have the right" to vigilantism: "YES I DOOOOOOO!!!"
Terrance Howard, in a performance that suggests someone has dared him to try and do his "solemn, stoic dude tryin' hard not to cry" vocal bit for an entire movie.
BLAM!! "WHO'S THE BITCH NOOOOOOWWWWWW!!!!????"
Foster-as-vigilante's only confidant, an older African woman, imparts sage-like wisdom about how "they give the children guns" in the old country. Because in bad "important" movies, every single person from Africa PERSONALLY experienced horrible violence, which has turned them into Gandalf and filled them with the singular desire to act as deeply-accented consciences to white people.
"You shouldn't smoke, it'll kill you." "I don't care." "Lots of ways to die. YOU gotta find a way to LIVE."
Jodie Foster stalking the neon-lit streets of New York after dark, hunting down scum to blow away while reading from Emily Dickinson in voiceover.
If nothing else, you've gotta hand it to director Neil Jordan: When he's shoveling bullshit, he's using both hands. "The Brave One" a deathly-dull, horribly formulaic Lifetime-level script that slogs across the screen with all the energy and visual stimulant of a Z-grade "Law & Order" imitator. Every cliche of the revenge genre is mined and put to use, but drained of all life and vigor. Foster either looks like she's sleepwalking (it's supposed to pass for PTSD "numbness") or she's bellowing in over the top ACTING!!! moments so hysterical they'd get you thrown off of an Uwe Boll movie. The overall vibe, that of an attempted deconstruction of the "Death Wish" model, would reek of pretention if it weren't so hollow as to negate even an EFFORT toward pretense. Guys, listen: Making a lifeless clone of an "unserious" movie and plugging a take-this-movie-seriously actress into the lead isn't "deconstruction" - it's just making a bad movie. In this case, it's making one of the worst "serious" films of the year.
Maybe it wouldn't read quite as bad had we not already seen a vastly superior "Death Wish" reworking in the criminally-underpraised "Death Sentence" earlier this year. That film actually succeeded in finding new life in the genre by ripping out any semblance of sociology or "message" and focusing on the breakdown of a lead character's psyche - following Kevin Bacon's collapsing sanity into the darkest abyss... and then beyond it. With "The Brave One," sadly, we're right back to square one with Foster (in her default mode of seething semi-tomboyish indignance) filling the creaky genre-mandatory role of the naive "liberal" forced to confront grim "reality." This year's model: Erica Bain ("BAIN?" We're goin' there? Really?) the host of an NPR-style radio show in which she loving pines for "the good old days" of edgy, ugly/beautiful pre-Giuliani cleanup New York.
The business surrounding Erica's show, for the record, is the closest the film ever comes to establishing a coherent or even interesting theme: That of a bitter-raised middle finger to the romanticizing of war-zone era NYC. It's thusly meant to carry some note of irony when, after another day of waxing nostalgiac for the days of Punk Club scuzz and "Eloise," Erica and her fiancee have a horrific encounter with a very "old New York" element: Jumped by a gang of thugs (one of whom is recording the attack with a video camera to help add chaos to the editing - way to think outside the box, huh?) during a midnight park walk, both are savagely beaten and the fiancee winds up dead.
Suddenly, Erica's beloved city is feeling mighty dark and unsafe, and it's not long (in fact, it's quick enough to strain believability) before she's buying herself an illegal handgun ("30 days? I WON'T SURVIVE 30 DAYS!!!!") and morphing into a steely-eyed urban crimefighter. She starts out blowing away burglars and muggers, then quickly moves up to rapists and organized-crime kingpins before remebering to track down her initial attackers so that the film can stage one of the goofiest endings since "The Village."
She can have her dog... I want my MONEY back.
FINAL RATING: 3/10