“Death Wish with female angst.”
Erica (Foster) has a very comfortable life: nice job as a radio host, imminent marriage to a doctor. This is suddenly destroyed in minutes, when she and her fiance (Andrews) are brutally attacked: he is killed, and she is left a nervous wreck, who sees a threat in every shadow on the city streets. A move to Kansas, while probably better for all concerned, would not be so cinematically or narratively interesting: instead, she buys a black-market gun for protection. A chance encounter on the subway unleashes her inner Bernhard Goetz and before you know it, she’s sweeping the scum off the streets, up to and including the crime lord whom even Detective Mercer (Howard) cannot touch, while simultaneously documenting the city’s reaction to her exploits on the airwaves. This brings her into contact with Mercer, since he is also investigating the vigilante slayings; his suspicions in this area gradually turn towards his new friend.
There’s obviously, more than an element of Death Wish here, though the heroine here is motivated, at least in part, by more than revenge. Foster is solid, as you’d expect – her character is an interesting parallel [or, in some ways contrast] to those she played in Silence of the Lambs and The Accused, and is hardly Charles Bronson. Jordan cranks up the psychological instability with more dutch angles than any film since Battlefield Earth, but the film is generally restrained, avoiding the more lurid angles, though it possesses a more than pessimistic opinion of the justice system. One does sense more could have been done with the media aspects: the resultant feeding frenzy, with the killer becoming a heroic figure to some, is only brushed against, and nothing much is made of the fact that her attackers videotape their crime. However, it’s still a credible slice of urban paranoia and disfunctionality. In many ways, its closest cousin is, perhaps surprisingly, The Dark Knight: to obtain closure, Erica has to decide, just like Bruce Wayne, how far into the abyss she is prepared to descend…
Dir: Neil Jordan
Star: Jodie Foster, Terrence Howard, Naveeen Andrews, Mary Steenburgen