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When Good Actors Play Good People Doing Bad Things ...

By admin Published: August 30, 2007

Yesterday morning I saw "The Brave One," the upcoming movie with Jodie Foster as a woman who begins killing bad guys as a way of dealing with her own feelings of victimization after being brutally beaten. (See trailer below) ...

It's one of several neo-"Death Wish" movies coming to theaters, also including "Death Sentence," with Kevin Bacon, which opens tomorrow, and which I've only seen a trailer for. (Trailer below.)

I don't want to get into a review of "Brave One" here, but there is a question that keeps nagging me: How should we deal with a good person doing terrible things in a film?

Of course, this is a question that goes back to at least "Death Wish." But I think it's even more pointed in "The Brave One," because Foster has such a large reserve of good will with audiences. (Charles Bronson wa also very likable, but conveyed an undercurrent of violence over his career, so his actions seemed plausible if not forgivable.) The likability of Foster is made more so when she plays a character who -- as we are repeatedly reminded -- has suffered greatly. At the same time, though, she's a serial killer. So what should await her at the end?

Showtime's "Dexter," to be sure, raises much the same question. But, as a series, it is sufficiently open-ended that it doesn't really have to answer it. Indeed, "The Sopranos" certainly showed that even when people expect a summing-up ending, a series is under no obligation to provide one. But by working in the more finite confines of a movie, "The Brave One" is obliged to provide an answer.

But is there any possible satisfying answer? I know what the movie concludes, but let's not spoil it. Let's look instead at the possiblities. I can think of three:

Have her caught and punished. But would audiences accept that fate for a character they care about?

Let her get away with it. But does that send the wrong message to people who believe in rough justice?

Kill her. Not punish her, but have her put out of business, probably by one of the people she is out to kill. But, again, will audiences be satisfied by that?

And does it matter how the audience feels, or if the piece is artistically honest?

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