- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 16, 2007

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit group dedicated to improving the entertainment lives of families, provides reviews of the latest movies from a parenting perspective. For more reviews, click on www.commonsensemedia.org.

‘The Brave One’

Rating: R

Common Sense media: Pause. For ages 17 and older.

..(out of five stars)

Running time: 122 minutes

Common Sense review: The best thing about “The Brave One” is getting to watch Jodie Foster piece together another complicated, determined character trying to make sense of a chaotic world. As radio talk-essayist Erica Bain, she’s alternately steely and scared, restive and perplexed.

At the beginning of the movie, Erica and her perfect fiance, David (Naveen Andrews of “Lost”) are brutally beaten by stereotypical-looking gangster teens. When she awakes from her coma, Erica learns that David is dead, and she’s beset by fear. Her anxiety is made concrete when the detectives working her case prove less than interested. With that, the movie changes from a contemplation of loss to a vigilante fantasy. Erica illegally buys a gun — and before she even has time to practice with targets, she is caught up in a convenience-store shooting.

Here’s where “The Brave One” goes loopy. Where once Erica waxed poetic on her radio show about New York’s variety and surprises, she now laments the menace she sees everywhere. As she shoots more bad guys, she grows more self-possessed.

Erica has support, most frustratingly in the form of the cop on her trail. Mercer (Terrence Howard) shares his pain with Erica. She doesn’t quite admit her own sins, and they develop a disturbing friendship based on lies and agreements to lie.

The movie has garnered attention for featuring a vengeance-minded woman in a role that usually is reserved for men, but “The Brave One” is almost more interesting for what it doesn’t do very well. In making Erica into a familiar character, the film misses a chance to explore how vengeance works, what makes it seem right or righteous.

Common Sense note: Parents need to know that this dark, mature revenge drama uses brutal violence and subjective images to play up its dire emotions. Families can talk about the concept of revenge. Does it make you feel better to “get back” at someone who has wronged you? Is violent vengeance ever justified? Also, how do Erica’s efforts to “clean up” the city streets challenge gender expectations? Why do so many people assume the killer is a man?

Sexual content: Flirty talk between a loving couple; a tender, passionate kiss; a brutal attack is intercut with a flashback to a sex scene.

Language alert: Language is fierce, with frequent uses of extreme expletives and other salty phrases.

Violence alert: Brutal attack features fast editing and disturbing camerawork. The attack itself includes hitting; kicking; bodies being thrown against the tunnel wall; and bloody faces, limbs, and torsos. The subsequent hospital scenes feature frantic ER rushing, bloody clothes being cut off and images of horrific injuries. Other very loud, bloody scenes include a man shooting a woman in the chest and Erica shooting him in the neck; Erica shooting two thieves on a subway; and Erica holding a gun to pimp’s head, then shooting him as he tries to run her over.

Social-behavior alert: Criminals and thugs are everywhere, committing violent acts with guns, knives and heavy boots. The hero is a vigilante.

Drug/alcohol/tobacco alert: Erica takes prescription pills; Mercer also takes pills. Erica smokes cigarettes, and Mercer drinks in a bar.

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