(2007)3.5Jason BuchananAn artfully crafted vigilante flick that benefits endlessly from a simmering lead performance by Jodie Foster, a memorable turn by supporting player Terrence Howard, and the intoxicating direction of veteran filmmaker Neil Jordan, The Brave One offers a fairly predictable yet thought-provoking meditation on the transformative power of revenge before a last-minute twist highlights how even the most righteous can succumb to their hunger for justice under the right circumstances. Robbed of her fiancé and rendered comatose by a murderous gang of street thugs, popular radio show host Erica Bain (Foster) eventually awakens to discover just how cruel fate can be. Erica is shattered to learn that her fiancé was killed in the vicious attack, and soon becomes wary of venturing outside alone. Returning to the apartment to begin the emotional recovery process, Erica is frightened by the fearful stranger that seems to have taken her over from within. It is at this point that Erica realizes that despite having never been afraid of anything in the past, she now fears the city she once called home and remains unable to venture out onto the streets without the reassurance that she will always remain in control of her fate. Jordan's technique of expressing his protagonist's churning malaise as she takes her first steps toward recovery is undeniably effective, and Foster offers a fascinating portrayal of a woman who never realized her own true nature until she began to grasp the profound true nature of fear itself. Likewise, Howard -- coming off yet another memorable performance in Richard Shepard's The Hunting Party -- proves once again that he is one of the most talented character actors in the film industry with his role as a frustrated police officer seeking justice against a powerful businessman who seems untouchable. The connection between Foster and Howard's characters is truly the heart of the film, and both actors are note perfect in their many scenes together (the scene in which they discuss the vigilante spree at a diner counter in particular shows both the actors and the director at the peak of their creative powers). What ultimately sets The Brave One apart from the vast majority of vigilante films is that while it never denies the viewer the cathartic release of seeing Foster go Mrs. 9mm on the worst scum that the city has to offer, it's the protagonist's compelling quest to connect with that mysterious inner stranger that will truly have viewers pondering their own stances on capital punishment and the consequences of taking the law into your own hands.