Having once been saved by cinema’s best-known New York vigilante, Jodie Foster now comes full circle and goes the avenging-angel route herself; who knew that our grown-up Iris was a closet Travis Bicklette? Foster’s public-radio-show host is just another Gotham citizen who likes walking her dog through Central Park after-hours. Then a trio of central-casting thugs start swinging pipes, her fiancé (Andrews) ends up six feet under, and she’s left to pick up the pieces. One illegal firearm purchase later, our heroine has morphed into the Bloomberg administration’s own Bernhard Goetz; Daily News readers cheer the fact that a real rain has come to wash the scum off the streets, while a detective (Howard) slowly puts two and two together.
If nothing else, Neil Jordan’s thriller revives the Lindsay era’s paranoia—and its Forty Deuce grindhouse product—to an alarmingly faithful degree. Even more than those vintage cheap-thrills flicks of yore, however, The Brave One negotiates around a queasy moral balancing act. It plays the vengeance for Friday-night kicks (“Revenge makes you feel good,” posits a caller to Foster’s show. Metatext alert!) while condemning the whole judge-jury-executioner ideology. But there’s a grating patina of self-significance that envelops the movie, as if The Brave One were somehow tapping into the zeitgeist’s anxiety without bothering to identify it. Whether you’re riding a cathartic rush in the name of vague social commentary or doing it just to help Foster’s ongoing butch action-hero makeover, it’s still exploitation; at least movies like Ms .45 owned up to the fact.