Monday, October 1, 2007

Wherefore Art Thou, Travis?

No one will ever forget Jodie Foster’s turn as a child prostitute in Marty Scorsese’s 1976 Taxi Driver. The then 13-year-old was immediately afforded the transition to actress rather than a child performer, and the subsequent bad business with Reagan shooter John Hinckley and his movie-like obsession with Foster forever seared her as one of the earmarks of the Me Decades’ zeitgeist. Foster’s long career has been a worthy one particularly when she’s hooked up with directors who share her talent, and Irish/Hollywood filmmaker Neil Jordan (The Crying Game, The Butcher Boy) is certainly one. How strange it is then to see he and Foster collaborate on The Brave One, a New York vigilante picture, a movie that seems to riff on Death Wish (1974), but is strangely, eerily, nods it’s weary head to the seminal Taxi Driver. While set up as an urban thriller and revenge film, both director and actress purport the film to be a critique of those genres. It doesn’t work that way in actuality, and despite a sharp acting passé between Foster and the always solid Terrence Howard the movie, accented by the shadow of 9/11, panders more than it circumvents, and Foster’s wronged Erika Bain winds up more like a modernized and feminized version of Charlie Bronson’s Paul Kersey (a regular Joe-gone-avenger) than Robert DeNiro’s multi-layered and fascinatingly complex Travis Bickle.

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