Now I’m wondering if they rushed out Death Sentence so they could get it released before this movie. Because this film is like Death Sentence, but better. Much better. Jodie Foster is a better actor then Kevin Bacon, in my opinion, but this one also has a real script to go with the violence.
Jodie is Erica Bain, a New York talk radio personality who, as she puts it, “walks the streets”, recording the sounds of the city and delivering monologues about its buildings and people and happenings. Somehow it sounds dull when I write it, but it’s good in the movie, trust me. It’s like Eric Bogosian in Talk Radio, but not so harsh and cynical. The point is, she’s good at her job, has a doctor fiancé who she adores (played by Naveen Andrews, who I’ve just discovered is on the television show Lost, which I’ve still never gotten around to watching), and a nice dog named Curtis. Then they go for a walk in Central Park at night, and she loses both dog and fiancé, and almost her job besides.
I’ve never been to New York… do people still walk in Central Park at night? I realize movies exaggerate, but I still wouldn’t do that myself without an armed escort. If even a third of what you see on the screen in various movies and TV shows is right, it’s too big a risk. I’m a natural coward, though. Anyway, three thugs find the dog, who’s gotten loose, and when they try to get him back, the thugs beat them both to a bloody pulp — and record the whole thing. There’s a lot of recording in this film, lots of security cameras and videophones, and of course Erica’s audio recordings, so remember, someone might be taping you right now.
After three weeks in a coma, Erica awakes and has to start trying to rebuild her life. Only of course you really can’t, as she says. You become someone else, and that’s probably very true. Except in her case, her paranoia and agoraphobia (both very understandable) unfortunately translate into her buying a gun so she can feel safe. When she accidentally stumbles into a fatal domestic dispute, she defends herself, and from there it’s a long way down a very slippery slope.
And the slope is really pretty fascinating, in a disturbing way. It doesn’t exactly seem to get easier for her to kill, but she does get more determined, prompting reports of a roaming vigilante. The detective assigned to the case (Terrence Howard, Hart’s War, and he’ll be in next year’s Iron Man as Tony Stark’s best friend, Jim Rhodes — movies are really going after the comic geek audience these days) is a fan of hers, and as he slowly becomes friends with her, he also comes to the unsettling realization of what she’s been doing when she isn’t on the air.
|Erica and Mercer philosophize over coffee in a dirty mirror.|
I really like the friendship between them –mainly because it is just friendship. Hollywood just doesn’t do that often enough — it gets dull, having the lead male and lead female fall into bed together so often. Anyway, they’re both lonely (Detective Mercer is recently divorced) and feeling a little lost, and they seem like they could have helped each other out. Of course, just as Erica reaches the crisis point, where she pretty much has to stop or be lost forever, her ring, stolen that night, resurfaces, and everything hits bottom, basically. Mercer had always wondered if he’d have the fortitude to arrest a friend who he knew had committed a crime, and the last part of the film is all about that. It’s a good question.
There’s lots of good questions, actually — not really new ones, but they’re explored well. There’s a scene where Erica is taking calls on the air about the vigilante, and the rapid-fire opinions run the gamut, from a woman who thinks it’s sexy to another who thinks the subject shouldn’t even be dicussed on the air. And when Erica wonders early on, “Why doesn’t somebody stop me?” you really feel for her. She doesn’t want to turn into the scary woman from the previews who says, “I want my dog back,” just before she shoots a man in the head, but she knows she can’t stop herself.
Four and a quarter idols. It can be described as a standard revenge story, because it is, but you feel a lot like you’re living it right along with Jodie, so you kind of understand why she’s doing those things, even though you might hate them. And it does make you think, about more than just how she’s going to get away with it. It ends up seeming more real than a lot of revenge flicks, and that makes a lot of difference. Just, you know, don’t try any of this at home, because that would be much too real. And someone might be recording…