Even Oscar win­ners want to walk on the wild side every now and then — and The Brave One offers such an oppor­tu­ni­ty for Jodie Foster. She toplines as a Terry Gross-esque talk radio per­son­al­i­ty who become an ama­teur vig­i­lante after some gener­ic street punks mur­der her fiancée and beat her bru­tal­ly. As she learns while she slays on the mean streets, she begins to cir­cle ner­vous­ly around a detec­tive (Terence Howard) who is inves­ti­gat­ing the killings and get­ting closer to her.

BraveO-posThe result is a weird attempt at apply­ing Hollywood pres­tige-film earnest­ness to oth­er­wise gut-lev­el exploita­tion mate­ri­al. The two sides of this coin nev­er mesh in a con­vinc­ing man­ner — par­tic­u­lar­ly when a ludi­crous finale requires one of the char­ac­ters to betray all prin­ci­ples to ful­fill a sim­plis­tic twist — but it’s inter­est­ing as an exam­ple of odd­ball high-bud­get camp.

FoBraveO-01ster plays the lead role like Clarice Starling reborn as Paul Kersey and the script gives her plen­ty of over­ripe mate­ri­al, like a scene where she argues with the mem­o­ry of her dead fiancée while swoon­ing over invi­ta­tions to a wed­ding that will nev­er occur. That said, she still man­ages a num­ber of nice moments with Howard, who gives the best and most believ­able per­for­mance of the film until that unwieldy third act.

Meanwhile, Director Neil Jordan has fun with visu­al style tricks: note how the cam­era goes into rhyth­mic Dutch-angle tilt­ing on its hor­i­zon­tal axis when Foster is about to kill a bad guy. He also seems to restage a sub­way killing from the orig­i­nal Death Wish in an almost ver­ba­tim style.

In the end, The Brave One is essen­tial­ly a vig­i­lante exploita­tion flick for peo­ple who would oth­er­wise con­sid­er them­selves too sophis­ti­cat­ed for this gen­re. It has its moments but those used to Ms. 45-cal­iber mate­ri­al are advised to cruise for those kind of kicks else­where.