Posts Tagged ‘vigilantism’

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Jodie Foster’s Death Wish

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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.

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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.

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“Shut up, crime!”

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If Seven Psychopaths weren’t enough psychopaths, Super offers another handful to keep you cringing and laughing.  I was stunned this movie failed so awfully at the box office.  It has Ellen Paige, Liv Tyler, Kevin Bacon and even Nathan Fillion makes an appearance that you won’t quite expect.

It’s one of those comic book hero wannabe films, as Michael Rappaport muddled through in Special.  It was done quite more impressively in Kick Ass as well, but Super lands somewhere in the middle, only with a gritty bit of the old ultra-violence thrown in.

Super’s over the top psychosis seems intended to make a statement on these obsessive hard right “law and order” maniacs.  The line between criminal and vigilante is constantly shifting around.  While Super’s goal is clear and morally good, some of his antics put him on the wrong side, and this is hammered home with the addition of his lunatic sidekick Boltie.  Ellen Paige plays the craziest little sidekick in memory, and really should have found some psychiatric help instead.

The characters are as pathetic as they are misguided, but still the film seems to make some kind of a point about extreme lunatics redeeming themselves and making good in the world, through unconventional means.

It’s not Disney.

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Super on Netflix.