Still, Jordan’s ballsy and sometimes bonkers movie is more ambitious and alive — more worth writing, talking and thinking about — than anything that has tumbled off the Hollywood assembly line in a good long while. Whether by accident or design, it dares to tell a story in which the audience rarely knows where (or if) its sympathies should lie and which builds toward one of the unhappiest “happy” endings in recent memory. It gives Foster and her granite cheekbones one of their best roles — a part that capitalizes on the actress’s implacable toughness and then turns it in on itself — and a few scenes together with Terrence Howard (as the detective investigating the vigilante case) that burn with the romantic fatalism of a 1940s noir. What does it all amount to? The apparent moral of this bloody fable, as announced to Erica by a kindly neighbor woman (who has evidently been watching Anthony Mann’s The Naked Spur), is that “There are plenty of ways to die. You have to figure out a way to live.” Which, in the world of The Brave One, is something easier said than done, unless you happen to have a few ounces of lead in your hip pocket.
THE BRAVE ONE | Directed by NEIL JORDAN | Written by RODERICK TAYLOR, BRUCE A. TAYLOR and CYNTHIA MORT from a story by TAYLOR and TAYLOR | Produced by JOEL SILVER and SUSAN DOWNEY | Released by Warner Bros. | Citywide