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Forget ‘brave’ – Neil Jordan is being positively heroic here. From the moment he took it on, The Crying Game director must have known his gender-swapped Death Wish would struggle to escape the shadow of the myriad other movies that have walked the urban-vigilante road. The man’s certainly got guts. Sadly, that’s not enough – he needed a good movie, too. He doesn’t deliver it.
It’s not the cast’s fault. The performances are solid enough; watching Foster’s traumatised radio jock Erica as she mourns her murdered fiancé David (Lost’s Naveen Andrews) in the wake of a savage mugging even pricks a tear or two. Meanwhile, Terrence Howard quietly shines as the detective investigating a spate of street killings that kick off when a vengeful Erica decides to face the world again, firearm in hand. But the story that all of these characters are plonked into is a morass of cliché and coincidence. Someone really should have asked some hard questions before cameras started to roll. Such as? Well, try these for size… Does Foster’s relationship with Andrews have to be so smugly perfect? Would a pair of New Yorkers really be stupid enough to stroll down an empty underpass in Central Park? At night? How many crimes is it possible for one woman to accidentally stumble upon? And if illegal guns are really so easy to get hold of, why is none of the crooks that Erica confronts ever packing one? And so on and so on and so on…
It’s lazy, credibility-sapping stuff; what makes it worse, though, is the vein of mawkish sentiment running throughout the film (steel yourself for the sub-plot involving our heroine’s pinched pooch). And then there’s the director’s insistence on jabbing the viewer’s buttons instead of simply letting the story play out: conspicuously skewed camera angles when the mood turns edgy; hammering music cues when we need to surprised, sad or scared. Any more of this manipulative malarkey and you’d be fixing Jordan in your sights, finger on the trigger…
Foster's moments of quality drive home how shaky and inconsistent this vigilante drama is. Want something to avenge? How about the way it fails to live up to the sum of its reputable talents. Now that's criminal...
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