From Indiewire. The most twisted, poetic mindfuck of the season. I don’t know what to think about this ode to cruelty, psychopathy, nightmares and gore. I don’t really get Rob Zombie or the French author whose psychotic musings overlay the imagery in this “video essay.” But tis the season of the witch, and terror is in the air.
Everything wrong with this film is summed up in three words by producer Joel Silver: “genre based entertainment.”
I took this as a serious movie, because it features Jodie Foster and in a different kind of role, as a disturbed vigilante. I too wrote a similar psychological story about a character dealing with violence, a novel that needs a rewrite called American Gun Disorder. I bring it up for the similarities that stand out: both have main characters in New York City dealing with violence and the desire for personal protection, firearms if necessary, in an inherently dangerous world. Both main characters devolve and go essentially crazy.
Unfortunately, The Brave One is more of an implausible Charles Bronson Death Wish type plot, for the entire middle of the movie. In rapid succession, Jodie just happens to find herself in the middle of extreme over the top incidents, where she must blast scumbags left and right. It’s like the producers called central casting. They placed an order for scumbag gang, psycho jealous husband, generic gangbanger pair, creepy John and suited elite gangster threatening stepdaughter. Bang, bang, bang, bang…
What’s more, they took this off the shelf revenge fantasy and threw a British artsy-indie director at it, in order to make it appear more substantive. Besides insulting the audience, he failed in his stylistic choices. Such a film where the main character devolves from sane to insane, in way too short screen time no less, really needs to be from her point of view. It has to be experiential. The camera must capture experience, real time moments, the personal perceptions of a character.
What we got instead were standard setups, voyeuristic treatment. The shots are more concerned with making it look cool than the actual psychology of the story. A style like Black Swan, religiously following the main character throughout, would have been appropriate. Here, we have a nicely lit commercial TV version of New York City. It feels absolutely nothing like the actual New York City. As cinematographer Philippe Rousselot revealed it was primarily shot on long lenses, which of course keep the audience at a distance, and it wasn’t “a panaorama.” Intimate shooting requires wide lenses, proximity, a feel for the environment. Long lenses, on the other hand, render the background as less consequential, simply window dressing.
A real character in the actual New York is half your work at selling the fear, the desperate sensibility and feeling of helplessness. Walking among 40 story towering behemoths makes one feel very insignificant and powerless. Add to that the hardened, aggressive city denizens, the 24 hour working class struggle and the fringes of civilization and you’re 90% there toward selling a descent into dog eat dog paranoia. Watch any five minutes of Taxi Driver before you start production. The Brave One failed glaringly there. It’s simply overlit and filmed Hollywood style.
The last problem, judging from bonus feature commentary, was Foster herself. A “public radio junkie,” she was perhaps the wrong person to be steering this story. NPR liberal head-nodders don’t walk around the city blasting gangbangers to kingdom come. It doesn’t compute. It may have been a good opportunity to show off her vocal talents and trade a radio show for unnecessary voice overs (but came off about the same anyway). Her character, however, didn’t click for this world, for this story.
Now the film had a shot, and some people liked it – that’s why I rented it. The beginning was okay, and the end had a little bit of inventiveness, not much, but some; I’d rate it 2.5/5. The stupid action movie one-liners, “who’s the bitch now?” didn’t help. The film’s middle, however, had no chance to avoid eye rolling and disbelief. It’s like the various personalities involved took hold of sections of the film ensuring their concerns were included at certain points: just too many chefs. In the end The Brave One pandered to rightwing conservative notions of payback and the death penalty, the usual point of these “genre based entertainments.” No surprises on that front, which was a bit off-putting. It’s like being trapped by conventions, by the idea that doing it differently is somehow verboten. I found it an unnecessary, poorly done mimicry of harder edged predecessors, just another vehicle that should have stayed on the lot.
The vampocalypse hits redneck America. Savage, though pretty dumb, the vampires are hunted down by a man with no name. At the opening, a teenage boy is recruited by the hunter, when this boy’s parents are chomped by a particularly aggressive vampire.
The boy comes of age in an environment of vigilante justice, desperation and the breakdown of society. The hunter has his own code, which he tries to impart to the boy. The complication is a huge cult, the Brotherhood, which runs large parts of the landscape. These religious nuts are potentially worse than the vampires.
This film has a definite right leaning, libertarian bias. The landscapes are devastated, abandoned, and Washington is to blame. The people are left to survive by themselves, which they do in an old west styled, circle the wagons mentality. The rugged individual is all that’s left, and any organization seems doomed to fail, a victim of herd mentality and crazy ideas or rose-colored idealism. It’s a depressing tale, but not a bad vampire flik. It has its own cult following around it, and that’s how I heard about it.
Most survival tales skew right with guns and self-reliance elevated to mythic proportions. This is true of zombie films and most horror genre pieces. See if you can read more into Stake Land than meets the eye.