Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Brave

So yeah, I know yesterday I said I’d be reviewing the remaining two films from the Female Prisoner Scorpion set, but how often do you hear of a film directed by Johnny Depp, where he agrees to be in a snuff film in exchange for enough money to get his family out of the poverty trap they live in? Especially when it’s a film that not only has yet to be released on DVD in the U.S., but has never even managed a theatrical release? And it’s one of Marlon Brando’s final film roles? Frankly, I wouldn’t have been able to respect myself if I had passed this one up.

That said, while good, this is not quite the out-of-the-park home run one might expect from all of the above. Depp keeps the film moving very slowly (we’re ten minutes into the film before anyone starts talking) to try to draw us further into how his character, and those around him, feel, which does work to an extent. He’s kept the manner of how he’s gotten so much money to himself (he just tells everyone he’s gotten a new job), so pretty much everyone, up to and including his long-suffering wife, assumes he stole it from somewhere. It’s nice seeing how, as soon as he gets part of the money, he spends it on building a mini carnival outside of his home for his kids and neighbors, to try and give them some measure of happiness that he’s been incapable of giving them up until now. This is complicated by Luis Guzman, Depp’s old partner in crime, who also assumes that Depp is stealing the money from somewhere, and is willing to get violent to get in on it.

The main flaw of the film is that it just moves too slowly a lot of the time; while it’s nice that the men making the snuff film keep popping up to remind us that Depp’s death is coming, the film could have had a good twenty minutes shaved off of it, and would have been all the better for it. Still, there is a good deal to like about it, from the strange combination of Depp’s Native American character looking oddly similar to Jack Sparrow while having a surprisingly well-defined chest, to Brando’s all too brief appearance as the man in charge of the company making the snuff films. It’s frankly a great concept for a movie, and I’d like to see Depp direct another film (this is the only one he’s helmed so far – given that eleven years later, it still hasn’t gotten any level of American distribution, I can’t really blame him), though perhaps his next one could have more of a plot rather than being just a character study.

Rating: ***

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