A walk in Central Park ends in intensive care for New York talk radio host Jodie Foster, and the morgue for her fiancé, when they’re attacked by happy-slapping thugs. A slow recovery is her first step back to life, but coping with the regret and her anger is another matter. Sold an illicit revolver, she’s soon salving her pain by blowing away a string of would-be muggers and sexual deviants, but is she venting every paranoid city-dweller’s unsuppressed rage, or simply overwhelmed by psychosis? Director Neil Jordan leaves the audience to answer that question, while the script’s other main character, embattled NYPD detective Terrence Howard, is certainly none the wiser, since it’s hardly reasonable to link this slight, highly literate female broadcaster with the latest serial slayings to hit the Big Apple.
Beautifully played, the tantalising accretion of mutual understanding between Foster and Howard is one of the film’s strengths, yet the plot machinations required to lever it into position would overstretch credibility in the clunkiest straight-to-video action flick. In rational terms, the story’s just not tenable, but accepting it as a provocative conceit, perhaps even an urban parable – given Jordan’s previous form with ‘The Crying Game’ and ‘The Butcher Boy’ – and it presents the challengingly unresolved notion of being subsumed by one’s inner monster. Foster’s remarkable performance makes the transformation palpably irreversible and though the film would carry more thematic heft if it made better sense, it’s still more hauntingly visualised and morally troubling than many a slick production-line offering.