Thou Shalt Not Kill... Even If You're Jodie Foster
Posted on Monday October 1, 2007, 16:07 by Dan Jolin in Empire States
Warning: minor plot spoilers ahead…
There’s a very good reason why Michael Winner’s Parting Shots is perched at the top of my list of worst films ever made. Well, there are MANY very good reasons (I’ll list them for anyone who asks), but above all the film’s extreme technical indelicacies is its purely, deeply, truly, madly offensive right-wing proposition that the actions of a murderous vigilante (in this case a photographer diagnosed with cancer who decides to kill everyone he blames for screwing up his life – played by, *cough*, Chris Rea) are not only justifiable, but heroic. Even more galling, it adds the erroneous suggestion that we all secretly would like to do what Rea’s character’s doing. (Winner, of course, has snuffled around this odious territory before in Death Wish and Dirty Weekend, so by Parting Shots – fittingly his last film – he’d pretty much honed all his worst tendencies.)
I bring this up now, because last week saw the release of The Brave One, starring Jodie Foster as a woman who, after being beaten to a pulp and witnessing her fiancé’s death at the hands of some New York City thugs, buys a gun and starts shooting criminals. As you do. Despite exhibiting rather more craftsmanship than Winner’s dog’s dinner, Neil Jordan’s vigilante picture stuck very close to Parting Shots in my craw. At first I thought it’d want to have its liberal cake and eat it (Foster’s character starts out as an intellectual media type and the film does try to posit some kind of moral conundrum during its second act), but then it just gives up, venomously spitting said cake all over any civilized sense of justice.
Of course, someone who believes you should be allowed to get away with murder so long as the deceased possibly deserved it – meaning anyone who’s in favour of the death penalty, basically – will very likely enjoy The Brave One. Which leads me to wonder if it’s possible, or desirable, to disassociate yourself from your political views when watching a film – in particular a vigilante movie.
Perhaps if The Brave One had made any attempt at ambiguity come its ham-fisted climax, I’d have treated it as a thoughtful exploration of the madness of modern society and stroked my beardy chin. Perhaps if it had just been ludicrous and over the top, I’d have lumped it in with The Punisher and forgotten about it two nanoseconds later. (Quick note: I’m not counting superhero movies as vigilante movies – most costumed crusaders are concerned only with stopping bad-doers, not killing them stone dead.) But it did neither. Unlike Taxi Driver’s Travis Bickle, Foster’s Erica Bain is given a vengeance motive (ie something to conveniently sympathise with), and her rampage is presented as a (perverse) healing process – Travis, by contrast, is a man disintegrating, whose treatment as a hero at the end is intended as an ironic statement. I couldn’t detect any irony in The Brave One.
So there you go. I just can’t ignore my mad, lefty view that no one, no matter how screwed up they’ve been by terrible personal events, no matter how anti-social their quarry, no matter how genuinely they think they’re doing good, should be morally absolved of their decision to execute people. And a film which suggests otherwise deserves nothing but derision.
Login or register to comment.
Posted on Tuesday October 2, 2007, 11:53
It's a murky moral area but it comes down to the person. I'm pretty liberal to be honest, I have no idea how I'd react if someone killed my loved ones but a big part of me believes I would want them dead.
I know vengeance is a bad thing, I know 'an eye for an eye' never solves anything but there we go.
And I swear various costumed vigilantes have killed.
Posted on Tuesday October 2, 2007, 12:22
It does seem as if The Brave One is a bit 'weak arse Taxi Driver for girls who have no taste', but as I've not seen it (and don't plan to) I'll reserve judgement. To my memory (which is not always reliable) when a superhero costumed vigilante kills someone (such as in the original Batman when the Joker plunges to his death) it's played out as a comment on the dark side of being a superhero or the villain's own doing. He slipped, honest guv'nor!
Posted on Tuesday October 2, 2007, 12:28
As a former then expelled member of, (in order) the Labour Party & Militant Tendency eventually fetching up in the CPGB, I think I can say with some confidence my lefty creds are at least as valid, if not more so, than your own. Having said that what passes for 'leftism' in your world is not really any such thing. More a kind of limp, turgid, Guardian-reader'ish, centre-ground Liberalism.
There are 2 main points you raise worth tackling: the first, concerned with art, is fascinating. To widen out your point about separating politics from films, why stop there? Music (Wagner/Nazi's debate) Ayn Rand (great writer/Awful fascist?) to give but 2 examples illustrate your point in the wider world.
I think it's a tricky one, basically. I think, for example, Israel took things way too far (don't they always!) when they banned Wagner's music from performance in the country but equally I wholeheartedly concur with you in condemning Winner's oeuvre in it's contemptible entirety.
But I really do not believe any sane, grown-up person should stick to such an absolutist principle as the one to which you claim to adhere. Take the classic moral/philosophical conundrum regarding Hitler and the time machine at your disposal. Could you honestly say he shouldn't be executed?
Not seen The Brave One yet and as Jodie '1 dimensional' Foster holds little appeal for me I'll probably wait till it's DVD release but one thing's for sure: apart from the objective greatness of Mahler, the inherent superiority of we Scots over the English, income tax & the eventual arrival of the Grim Reaper, there are very, very few, if any, absolutes in life - it's a brave or foolish man who can make the kind of unequivocal claims that you just did!
Posted on Tuesday October 2, 2007, 12:40
What movie (or maybe it was a TV show) was that in again when someone is killing someone for vengeance and someone is pleading with them to stop, that it won't change things or make them feel any different. Then they do it anyway and are afterwards saying something like: "well actually it did make me feel a little better."
Posted on Tuesday October 2, 2007, 13:35
Having seen nothing but the trailer for this I can't really comment, but if the viglante justice is portrayed as you say it is then the film can't be counted as art, but more like a vindication of the "give me five minutes in a room with michael stone/Ian Huntley and I'll show 'em what real justice is" mentality that seems to be prevalent in a section of society.
Now as a former member of the Conservative Youth, sorry Young Conservatives, I happily count myself as a Righty and as far as this country goes the right does tend to ascribe to the idea that the rule of law is the bind that holds society together, rather than any communitarian mob justice for the "greater good".
But back to the film, this is no place for a right vs left debate, but I get the feeling that when viglante justice is portrayed in films (again excluding the superhero genre) it normally works best when there is a juxtaposition with the prevailing moral tendencies of society. in Taxi driver this is thanks to Sybil Shepard's character and her rejection of Bickle (although if you're going to take a girl to the movies on a first date a porn is probably not the way to go) perhaps in this film a third act of her being shown as having become the type of person that she was going after would rescue the film.
Posted on Tuesday October 2, 2007, 13:50
As crap a a film The Brave One is, what's a more attractive plot line - Jodie foster exacts her revenge on the dark evil side of society with a gun or she enters a two year counselling programme and overcomes her fear and grief? Though I understand that the focus of The Brave One is Jodie Foster's decision to up arms against the more disagreeable of societies miscreants, by your argument you can tick off many acclaimed revenge thriller and action flick as some sort of Right Wing Ideal.
Posted on Tuesday October 2, 2007, 14:13
You know what? I don't know the answer and I'm not sure if I really care.
I will say this though... I wanted to beat the crap out of the person that scratched the side of my new car. I didn't actually do it, but I wanted to.
Does that make me a bad person?
Posted on Tuesday October 2, 2007, 17:02
really really interesting point.
I don;t think that the film is as obvious as you make out. For example, in many of the killings that Fosters character carries out you could argue that there is more than an element of self-defence. Now I know nobody goes out with a gun in their pocket for fun, but in this context she had seen her boyfriend killed, been badly beaten herself so maybe felt justified in making sure it could never happen again. In one of the killings stranger-rape is strongly implied as a threat, so again, its not as clear as you would like it to be what her motives were.
The other issue here, and it is a fascinating one, is what does happen when we watch films? The term I give for our emapthy for the central figure of any peice of drama is 'Virtual Ethics'...whereby we take on the ethics of the person in question even though they may not be our own in real life. Are you seriously suggesting that we should all return our latest shoot 'em up console games for the same reason? Where does this thought process stop?
Lastly, I would argue that if any political slant is served in this pretty dire film, then surely it would be the left and not the right? Would not the Liberal/Left view actually not agree with the actions of Foster in this film? Why can't she do what the hell she wants?
Posted on Tuesday October 2, 2007, 17:49
How is this post whining about supposed right-wing nastyness in a film any different from pointless bile from pundits like Rush Limbaugh and his views on The Bourne Ultimatum?
Posted on Tuesday October 2, 2007, 17:57
Yorkshire tic - I would say that wanting to do it but not doing it is exactly what stops you being a bad person (well, depending on why you don't do it - simply not being able to find the person probably doesn't count!) I think any of us, finding key scratches all over our car, would feel like we wanted to punish the jerk that did it, but the difference is that we choose not to.
Posted on Tuesday October 2, 2007, 22:36
Fucking Left Wing Pansy. It's your fault there are so many people on job seekers thinking they deserve it. I'm not saying killing people is ever just, persoanlly, I believe no-one has the right to decide whether someone else lives or dies. What I do detest is that you don't seem to be able to comprehend. IT'S A FILM, IT'S ESCPISM. AND THE ENDING WAS THE ONLY DECENT PART!
Posted on Wednesday October 3, 2007, 10:16
Re: the "time machine and Hitler" debate. No, I would not kill Hitler; aside from the "step on a butterfly" theory of time travel, I don't believe in killing for any reason (which, pre-empting criticism, is not the same as ending a life, eg. in terms of euthenasia, which is a whole other moral minefield). One could argue that if someone was coming at you with a gun, to kill you, then yeah, it's you or him (this principle applies in war) but to actually INTEND to kill someone, to execute or murder - it's abhorent and should never, ever, be done. If I had a time machine to dispose of Hitler, I'd arrest him or do whatever else I could to stop him committing a lifetime of atrocities, but I couldn't murder him because it's not right.
Re: The Brave One, I've not seen it, and don't intend to, because it looks just like the kind of reactionary might-is-right trash that I tend to avoid. Taxi Driver is the perfect vigilante movie because it allows you to enjoy Bickle's rage and then reminds you of how disgusting and reprehensible his actions are, therefore making you question your own motivations and attitudes to violence.
And, finally, re: superhero vigilantes: yeah, some of them kill, but I'm generally not a fan of those (Wolverine probably being an exception). Most "killing" supers are essentially soldiers killing other soldiers; traditional vigilante-style supers (eg Batman, Spider-Man) have, in comics at least, strict no-kill moral codes, which informs their character a great deal. I guess this allows the writers to have their vigilante justice cake and eat it, but one could argue it re-enforces to readers the sanctity of human life.
And I sincerely hope this is the most serious I ever get commenting on this website :-)
Posted on Wednesday October 3, 2007, 10:23
the comments of the winging leftie "eanraig_macpatrick" i find laughable
forster is without doubt in the top 3 actresses of all time and far from 1 dimensional
maybe this one time commie should watch more films before making such stupid comments
Posted on Wednesday October 3, 2007, 10:58
perhaps could supply some supporting argument, with some rounded analysis, that sheds light on your articulate and erudite assertion: "the comments of the winging leftie "eanraig_macpatrick" i find laughable
forster is without doubt in the top 3 actresses of all time and far from 1 dimensional
maybe this one time commie should watch more films before making such stupid comments "
In terms of critical debate you're not giving us a lot to go one, are you?
Posted on Wednesday October 3, 2007, 12:19
I'm rather tired of films being condemned by Film critics for not being politically sound. As if every movie should rigidly reflect their own liberal/left views.
Vigilante movies might be 'politically unsound' but the tap into the fantasy most people have to sweep the scum off the streets.
Posted on Wednesday October 3, 2007, 13:57
I'm sick of discussing subtext in films. Maybe the Brave One does have a right wing bent; maybe the characters actions are morally objectionable. Who cares? I'm in favour of the death penalty (It doesn't deter but it stop repeat offenders!) and I thought the film was rubbish; the story was cr*p. The acting was less than average (And I normally like Jodie Foster). Surely that's all that matters. I remember discussing Lord of the rings with a friend of mine and all he could bang on about was how it was, and I quote 'A gravid metaphor for the Response of the Western Powers in the face of the Nazi agressor during 1941 - Sauron of course is Hitler' I responded with 'Bullsh*t - it's about Elves and stuff. Sometimes a lamp is just a lamp. And anyone could and would kill given the proper motivation. Hell, they'd probably even enjoy it
Posted on Wednesday October 3, 2007, 14:06
Two subjects not to be discussed on a blog; religion & politics.
I hope you've all learned your lesson. Now go and cool off somewhere...
Posted on Wednesday October 3, 2007, 14:31
Surely the point of film is simply to tell stories. Some of these will speak directly to our own experiences and values, others will appall. To say that a film deserves nothing but derision because it represents a moral viewpoint that differs from your own seems more than a little dubious.
As someone who abhors violence in real life, I have to say that I heartily enjoy a hefty dollop of violence in some of the films I watch, and some of the most satisfying elements of these films is seeing someone get their,often violent, comeuppance. I do not support the death penalty and I would be appalled and sickened if actually faced with the reality of murder, yet I am more likely to be heard shouting "He's still alive, stab him!" at the screen than, "What are you doing? I cannot morally absolve you of this act!"
It seems to me that films should not be derided for telling stories that reflect a morality that we do not share. Perhaps we need them to, if nothing else, remind us of other viewpoints and help us to nurture our own sense of moral superiority.
Posted on Wednesday October 3, 2007, 16:46
Yours is easily the best post on this subject by far. Open minded, fair minded and with a large dollop of tolerance and common sense. What a refreshing change from the 'yah boo sucks' nature of a lot of posts (my own included, I hasten to add)
Well done that chap (or chapette)
Posted on Wednesday October 3, 2007, 20:30
bloody ell - dont ever blog a serious film
Posted on Thursday October 4, 2007, 12:56
Who are we to judge who should live and who should die...
Posted on Thursday October 4, 2007, 18:05
Isn't every movie with action a right-wing movie since they almost all glorify and/or justify violence...
Posted on Thursday October 4, 2007, 18:06
Its an interesting question. Ignoring the left vs right tosh which to be honest i dont think applies so much it all boils down to do we leave our own moral/ethical and political view points at the door when we go to watch a film.
I think Woodseaves makes the most artictulate argument and i just want to echo those. I mean if we decided to watch or not watch each film because we condoned or didnt its politics or moral code we'ed all probalby just end up hiding uner the bed shivering slightly and Empire would be out of a job. After all plenty of people went to watch Hostel or Saw and its sequels and I bet theyr'e not all psychopaths.
As with woodeaves I personally hate violence however one of my favorite scenes is The bride vs the Crazy 88. Its all about the suspension of disbelief in the end...
Posted on Thursday October 4, 2007, 18:29
Damn it.... just had a bit of a chat with a mate and I think I should clarify the above. I'm not suggesting that people should disregard their own moral or ethical viewpoint when watching a film (for instance I would never in a million years go and watch a film that advocated the holocaust ... an extreme example I know) just that sometimes we should recognise that it is often about the suspension of disbelief and that we go to watch films to be entertained or challenged. Something that we cant neccessarily do if we only go and see films that match up exactly what we believe in.
Having said all that I dont think I will be watching the brave one cos I dont think it is going to entertain or make me think....
Posted on Thursday October 4, 2007, 22:09
I really don't think we can ignore our political views,when watching a film,because films are charged with political/social views!
Even the "innocent" ones,like Stardust,are a manifest: the manly pirate,who's actually a gay,therefore effeminate and weak,when facing a REAL man;the Star is taught how to dance,the dumb hero is taught how to fight;the evil sexual woman,etc,etc. How come we can ignore such prejudices and stereotypes?
I haven't seen The Brave One yet,but it seems is just a fake way of screaming "feminist film",while,as you said,just tries,once more,to tell audiences killing people because you feel oh so sad it's a positive action!
damn im good!
Posted on Friday October 5, 2007, 10:00
I actually like the idea of The Brave One. I enjoyed Death Wish. I like Kill Bill. Revenge is great fun. And makes for a good movie. I think it was that bloke who wrote the bible who said "an eye for an eye". Good enough for him, then it's good enough for me.
Is it the randomness of her revenge you dislike? I'm guessing she gets all vigilante on crims unconnected to the brain bashing her other half gets. I kinda see where you're coming from if thats the case, but I still think your views are a little short sighted.
I'm boycotting the movie for other reasons. Like the fact I would rather eat my own faeces than watch a Jodie Foster movie. Surely thats a real reason to dislike a film!!!
Posted on Friday October 5, 2007, 13:43
"meaning anyone who’s in favour of the death penalty, basically – will very likely enjoy The Brave One"
I am not one who can answer the death penalty honestly. In my mind and morals I am against it, always have been. However I do not know how I would feel should someone brutally hurt/kill someone I love, this is something I hope never to find out. I think this is something the film tackles, how you can never really know your true self.
I must say that Jodie has a history of playing strong and interesting characters, and thank god for that!
Posted on Friday October 5, 2007, 17:03
I hate to admit it, but I've frequently thought that if I ever was diagnosed with a terminal disease, I'd love to spend my last few months ridding the world of people whom I believe are a vicious waste of its resources ... like vivisectionists; rapists; people who beat up the elderly; paedophiles; and my thieving neighbours, just for starters ...
I also dream of having a fully armed Apache helicopter at my disposal so I can deal with pockets of my marked targets, not just single ones.
I'd far rather see the death penalty brought back than see violent crime escalate any further than it already has ... I do know there are miscarriages of justice, but based on my own feelings, I'd vote that a quick death is more humane than a long prison sentence anyway.
So I should thoroughly enjoy this movie, right?
does this mean I'm a social pariah, or just honest?
Posted on Friday October 5, 2007, 17:58
Well, you have to take those peoples history in consideration. What makes somebody do horrible things. The fact that you apparently are unafraid to do them yourself, other people could ask themselves what made you kill that person. A paedophile has family too, do you have the right to decide to rob them of that person, which they raised for who knows how many years. It's punishment enough that their son has a sexual disorder...
Posted on Friday October 5, 2007, 18:16
It seems to me, by the look of the trailer, Jodie Fosters character kills a bloke in a sort of self defence and then considering what she has already been through with the death of her partner, probably decides she may as well become a vigilante until she is caught, as she has already killed anyway. She then does'nt have the moral dilema to contend with, ie: could or couldn't I kill. In a way the killing of real nasty people probably isn't that hard a decision if you put your self in the situation, you or them. This movie is pretty much the same concept as Outlaw and for some reason that got bad reveiws, even though I really liked it. Outlaw was actually more about the severe beating of thugs and the like, giving them a taste of their own medicine, which is alot more tolerable than actually killing them and in away I agree with that.
Posted on Friday October 5, 2007, 20:24
i 100% agree with you helen. i am often disturbed by the belief system in these vigilante films, and how much my fellow audience members seem to just accept it. what disturbs me even more is that an actress of the calibre of jodie foster agreed to do a film like this.
Posted on Sunday October 7, 2007, 12:22
It's pretty worrying in slasher films when people root for the killer rather than the victims, who's only desire is to kill and maim a small consellation is that the vigilante is serving a purpose however misguided.
Posted on Monday October 8, 2007, 11:54
Why is more attention being paid to this movie than Death Sentence?
Posted on Monday October 8, 2007, 12:14
Stop your moaning! - are we gonna have to read the same crap when Death Sentence [Kevin Bacon] is released..? - Until someone violently rapes your mother or daughter or 4 year old baby sister and leaves them in the gutter like a piece of human garbage - until someone beats your pensioner father to death with a claw hammer for a couple of quid - until your 8yesr son is kidnapped, sodmised and murdered by a gang of peodophiles or something just as horribly unimaginable, which does unfortunately happen to many, many people all over the world every day - ask them, how they feel, ask the ones on the recieving end, those whose love has been snatched prematurely by some sicko - for the people who like to hide behind their curtains when the sun goes down and pretend they don't hear someone scream, so they can ignore the reality of the planet as it is - Dont Judge!.
Oh and Superhero Vigilantes do kill [do your research]
Posted on Wednesday October 10, 2007, 14:00
I doubt i'll watch this film, unless in the future it's on sky movies when i'm really bored. It's not my kind of movie for various reasons but i felt i would comment just to agree with Jodie Foster who is quoted saying she disagrees with the title - shooting people is not brave! The film for her showed the affect violence has, that by the end her charachter had become a differnt person - corrupted.
Posted on Sunday October 21, 2007, 19:43
"Until someone violently rapes your mother or daughter or 4 year old baby sister and leaves them in the gutter like a piece of human garbage - until someone beats your pensioner father to death with a claw hammer for a couple of quid - until your 8yesr son is kidnapped, sodmised and murdered by a gang of peodophiles or something just as horribly unimaginable, which does unfortunately happen to many, many people all over the world every day - ask them, how they feel, ask the ones on the recieving end, those whose love has been snatched prematurely by some sicko - for the people who like to hide behind their curtains when the sun goes down and pretend they don't hear someone scream, so they can ignore the reality of the planet as it is - Dont Judge!."
Calm down dear.....!
Posted on Saturday March 15, 2008, 17:20
a history of violence is another guilty of the same crime