Joanna Langfield on “The Brave One”

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The buzz about Jodie Foster’s “The Brave One” centers around the fact the vigilante is a woman.

Is this, may I query, why we are supposed to get our panties in a bunch?

Film historians can point to many female characters in so-called “traditional” commercial releases, and God knows how many “B” movies, who’ve gone for the jugular.

Foster has carved a nifty niche for herself by bringing a compassionate edge to some pretty gutsy dames. But, despite Jodie’s determined investigation of this killer’s inner demons, “The Brave One” is still an ordinary, box office-driven, not so thrilling thriller.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, at least in light of the financial success of Foster’s previous vehicles, like “Flightplan” and “Panic Room,” both of which had her fighting like hell to save her child–a mother’s protective instinct being an acceptable motive to blow away the bad guys.

This time the motive is revenge–for her yummy, accomplished doctor/fiancé being murdered when she and he are is viciously attacked, while walking their puppy, in New York’s Central Park. As our heroine tries to get on with what’s left of her life–unlicensed gun tucked in her bag–she coincidentally happens in on an amazing string of ultra-violent incidents. Within days, she not only encounters but takes down murderers in bodegas, thugs on subways, slippery white collar family terrorists and, oh yeah, the original park muggers, too. We are supposed to cheer as she points her weapon (ok, her hands are shaking a little bit) and demands, “ I want my dog back”.

Welcome to New York, eh? In the press notes and several interview, the filmmakers have taken pains to note that “The Brave One” taps into the post 9/11 New York vibe. While this is the safest big city in the world, there’s still a sense that its idyllic street life could be “ripped apart at any moment”. Thanks for that.

As one who has lived in New York City for many years, maybe I do take all this too personally. Of course there are random acts of terrible, unnecessary violence here–but they also occur in too many other towns. But one of the lessons I learned post 9/11 is that, under the very worst of circumstances, my fellow New Yorkers, even those who look and sound different from me, have my back. And I have theirs. We can only hope smart movie professionals like Foster will use their power to tap into that–that’s the real heart of New York.

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