Up next on NPR, how to blast a bad guy…

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Those who thought a certain Rob Zombie remake in August hinted that Halloween came a tad too early this year will be even more convinced after witnessing Jodie Foster’s “The Brave One.”

For it’s wearing one hell of a good mask.

For weeks before its release, Foster and director Neil Jordan have been touting that this revenge-porn thriller was going to change the way audiences look at the genre. I suppose it accomplished this in the fact that I thought Foster had nicer legs than Charles Bronson did 30-plus years ago with the penultimate ode to self justice, “Death Wish.”

But “Death Wish” made no bones about its eye-for-an-eye retribution. It was happy to wallow in its exploitative excesses, especially as the series digressed into its latter incarnations.

With its pedigree of Foster, Jordan (“Breakfast on Pluto,” “The Butcher Boy,” “The Crying Game”) and Terrence Howard, the bar of expectations is set just a wee bit higher.

But no such luck here, as every time an ethnic stereotype emerges on screen, you can rest assured that Foster’s character is going to blow their face off with her pistol.

If there was an essay on the effects of violence, it must have been muffled by the thunderous blast of her pistol, or the even louder cheers from audience member as victims lay in pools of their own blood.

Look, I have no problem with vengeance genus of film. And I realize that the careers of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Steven Seagal were at times wholly dependant on having a girlfriend, wife, mother, sister, brother, partner, cousin, friend, accountant, pool boy, etc. abducted and/or killed.

But witnessing a savvy actress such as Foster spouting cheesy 80s-era one liners such as “Who’s the bitch, now?” as she pulls the trigger is rather deflating.

Foster plays Erica Bane, a public radio personality who, with her fiancee, is brutally attacked in Central Park one fateful evening. She survives. He does not. The film flirts with the notion of her dealing with the loss and the disorienting feeling of being a stranger not only in her home city, but her own skin.

We see her first wary steps of trying to crawl out of her cocoon and re-enter the life she knew. But once she’s out and about, it’s mere minutes before she’s making seedy back-alley deals for purchasing firearms and dispensing her own brand of anger-fueled justice.

Sorry, but the notion of a pistol-packing Nina Totenberg is just not one that rests easy on the brain.

As (un)luck would have it, one of Erica’s first forays back into the fray involved an ill-timed Sprite run at the local convenience store where a domestic squabble gets settled with bullets. Her first instinct is to draw her trusty sidearm, dispose of the bad guy and quickly leave the premises (with the security tape securely tucked into her knapsack).

Afterward, there is another encounter on a subway involving some bullies who steal an iPod from a commuter. But Jordan wants to make sure that you think these guys deserve what’s about to come to them by having them pick on a little boy and his dad and pull a knife on Erica. As fate would have it, Erica was fortunate enough to pick the only subway train that was vacant and that stopped at the only terminal where there was not a witness to be found.

On and on it devolves, trying to pepper itself with small symbolic gestures of how she is apparently affected by her actions (shower with her clothes on to wash away the sins? You betcha!). But that all rings false louder than the slugs from her 9 millimeter.

At least in exploitation films like “Ms. 45,” “Fight for Your Life” and “Thriller: A Cruel Picture” (aka “They Call Her One Eye”), they had the courage of their convictions and offered us no such nonsense of guilt and remorse.

Even Howard’s straight-arrow police detective who is on the heels of her spree makes a last-minute turn that is unexpected as it is preposterous.

Foster is above every scene she’s in. She attacks her role with the same ferocity she’s approached every role she’s chosen (even lighter fluff like “Flightplan” and “Nell”). But she’s reduced to an N.R.A. pinup – a Charlton Heston masturbatory fantasy.

The crowd I witnessed “The Brave One” with was obviously impressed by the sadistic stream flowing through it, and I suppose since summer has ended at the box office, there is a void left behind for mindless mayhem that this may fill.

But for those entering the film hoping for more out of the esteemed actress and director than a pile of bodies,”The Brave One’s” a dead end.

~ by usesoapfilm on September 18, 2007.

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