THE BRAVE ONE

NOTE: This is spoiler #66 sent in by Brentage5000 who says..."If Death Sentence was a realistic take on The Punisher, this is a (much better) female version of both Death Sentence AND The Punisher. Very good and VERY oscar-caliber."

As we pan over New York, we hear radio show host Erica Bain (Jodie Foster) talking about how all through New York you can witness little dramas being played out in miniature. As she signs off from "Street Talk" and says goodbye to her manager (Mary Steenburgen), we start to hear a much grimmer Erica talking about how it's possible for you to lose yourself and find that someone else is just waiting to take your place. Meanwhile, we see the real Erica picking out invites for her upcoming wedding to her boyfriend David (Naveen Andrews), and they agree over the phone (he's at work at the hospital) on the cream and orange ones, although the lady corrects them to vanilla. Erica also tries to convince David to come to the party being thrown by their friends Jill and James, and he reluctantly agrees, meeting her there just in time to leave (only way he'd come). They head back to their apartment to pick up their dog Curtis and head out for a walk, and soon are at Stranger's Gate. David tosses the ball down a tunnel and Curtis chases it, but doesn't come back. They call after him and three punks (who shall be known as Pipe, Wool Cap, and Jersey) emerge, jokingly mentioning New York's leash law. They ask about a reward and David just says, "Our gratitude." The punks come closer and take David's wallet, but soon start shoving both of them around and into the tunnel walls and taping it in turns (important). Pipe takes out a pipe, leans over David, screams, "Night, bitch!" and--

We see David and Erica moving gently against each other, caught up in sex. At the same time, we see them getting wheeled into surgery. They both look pretty horrible, but Erica looks a lot worse, although David's spine is pretty damaged. A few days later, we see detective Sean Mercer (Terence Howard) and his partner, Detective Vitale (Nicky Katt). They approach the bed of a recently deceased woman who was beaten horribly before dying. The sheet gets pulled back, and it's....the wife of a reputed gangster who imports pretty much everything anyone could want. They find her daughter -- the gangster's stepdaughter -- and Mercer pulls her aside to gently question her (and give her a lollipop). Before he can really get started though, the gangster, Murrow (Gordan McDonald), shows up looking to claim his daughter, though Mercer states that since he has no legal claim, he can pretty much bug off, and Murrow reluctantly leaves. Mercer takes a walk and passes Erica's room, where her face is covered in bandages and she seems to be pretty much at Death's door. 

A month passes. We see Erica awaken in her bed looking a lot better (though not one hundred percent) and be told by everyone what's happened and what she's missed, including David's funeral. The cops bring her a book of thugs to look through, but she can't identify them and is pretty harsh to the equally insensitive investigating cops. . She gets released eventually but is so petrified that she can't bring herself to open the front door of her apartment, and has enough trouble walking towards it through the first floor hallway. Eventually, one of her friends calls her demanding that they get together, and she goes out, although everything is shaded by her fear (nice camera technique -- everything is overexposed but her, and she's underexposed). She makes it to the police station and asks for a progress report on her case, but the cop manning the front desk obviously doesn't give a shit and just tells her to wait, which she does....and does....and does....and does, until she gets fed up and leaves. She heads down the street and walks until seeing a gun shop. She goes in, but is thwarted in her purchasing attempts by some policy about needing a license to buy a gun. She goes out, but is stopped by a Korean guy who takes her to the fish market and says that for a thousand bucks, he'll give her a gun and throw in the ammo for free. After a journey to the docks and a quick lesson in how to load it, she walks away a proud (illegal) gun owner.

That night, we see Sean meeting his lawyer ex-wife Nicole in a bar. He asks if it would be possible for her to get the stepdaughter from the hospital made a ward of the state, but she can't do it because it might be perceived as a conflict of interests, due to their "relationship". Meanwhile, we see Erica in a convenience store somewhere in the city. She's bent over to get something when the door bursts open and some guy comes in and starts yelling about how the cashier tried to take his kids and his money from him before violently shooting her. He leaps over the counter and starts going through the register but suddenly hears a squeak of fear from Erica. He starts hunting her through the store, but she gets the drop on him from behind some wine bottles (I think) and shoots him three times, though only two actually hit. She slowly goes to see what she did and finds the guy lying there dying slowly. She checks on the cashier, but she is already dead. Unsure what to do, she grabs the security tape and bolts. As Erica ditches the tape and makes her way back home for a cleansing shower, we see Mercer and Vitale arrive and go over the scene, but because the tape is gone and it was so late, there's no evidence beyond the shell casings, so they chalk it up to a domestic struggle made public.

The next morning, Erica is trying to come to terms with what she's done, and the cold Erica says that the stranger that waits inside is hiding just beneath the surface, waiting for the right moment to come out. As for Erica, she is struggling to come up with a topic for her segment, but is getting nothing, although when she arrives at the station she tells her manager she's all set. Reluctantly, Carol lets her go in, but Erica freezes. Everybody waits, and we cut to see Mercer listening in his car, but there's still nothing -- until Erica starts talking about how fear can infect the place one loves, even if it's the safest city in the world, and Carol breathes a sigh of relief. Later, we see Erica visiting David's grave at last, and she falls asleep there until late at night. She gets a train home and sees two black punks harassing the other passengers and stealing one college kid's iPod, even though they hate all of the music on there. The train stop and everyone but the punks and Erica gets off. They see her sitting and start to come over with knife-rape on their mind, but Erica whips out her gun and shoots them both, not missing once. She gets off at the next stop, stepping over one of the punks, and makes her way to a bar, where she promptly vomits into the toilet, frightened not by what she's done but by how her hands aren't even shaking and how no one has even stopped her. She pulls herself together and heads back to the station to see cops and reporters gathered, including Mercer and Vitale. They figure that its the same shooter from the store last night and as Mercer goes to head off the press, he sees Erica in the distance. He heads after her thinking she looks familiar (he saw her in the hospital, remember?), but when she mentions that she works for the radio and wants to do a show about him, he backs off.

The next day, though, we see Mercer in his office and talking to Vitale, and Vitale convinces him to call her back. Meanwhile, Erica is being told that she got lucky with yesterday's show, and that they want more of that personal stuff. She heads downstairs just in time to meet Mercer, and the two go to a coffee shop for the interview, where Mercer admits that the guy doing the shooting is improving, and he also says that for him, at least, the dead do talk and tell the truth, saying exactly what happened to them. Meanwhile, Erica asks questions that if heard right sound just like ones that would be asked by someone looking to avoid detection. The interview gets interrupted by a news broadcast regarding Murrow's victory in a custody hearing, and Mercer lets slip that he would do anything, even illegal stuff, to take Murrow down and have his stepdaughter tell what she knows...something Erica hears very well indeed. She goes out that night possessed, and the voice says that in order to survive, you have to entirely become somebody else....someone you never thought you could be...someone you wouldn't even recognize. As she walks through parts of the city she never suspected existed, she hears a man calling to her. She plays the part and wanders over. He tells her to get in back with a girl named Chloe, and she does. At first she acts as though she's gonna make out with Chloe, but when she the guy puts a cigarette out on one of them a switch gets flipped and the gun comes out. Erica yells at him to unlcok the doors and let them out and give Chloe all his money, and he obeys. However, he tries to revenge himself on Erica by running them both over, but only becomes victim number four for Erica and gets a crashed car for it. Erica runs back to Chloe, who got a broken leg at some point in the fracas, and when Chloe asks who she is, Erica just says, "I'm nobody," and disappears into the night.

The next day, we see Erica at a news conference being held by Mercer and the rest of the cops about the vigilante. They say that they are doing everything in their power and that they do not need someone doing their job for them like this man is. The conference ends, and we see Mercer notice a somewhat shaken looking Erica. They talk outside, and each expresses their belief that the other is a good person. Down at the station, Erica is told that they're going to be taking callers today on the vigilante since people liked Erica's last broadcast on it so much, but most of the calls are from religious freaks, girls who want to fuck him, or men pretending to be the vigilante. As the calls are received, we see both Erica and Mercer looking disgusted at the types of calls they're hearing. That night, we see Erica pacing nervously on a stairwell when she decides to call mercer. Once he's awake, they talk about how to get to sleep after tragedy, and Mercer says quite simply, "You don't," echoing something Erica said when he asked her during the interview how you get over the loss of someone you love. Erica looks down onto the street and sees Murrow, and she thanks Mercer and abruptly hangs up. She boards the elevator and gets off on the same floor as Murrow. She lets him get ahead of her and follows him to his car. She asks how he can hurt people and not care, and he whips out a crowbar, slicing open her left arm. He drops the crowbar and asks who she is, and she picks up the crowbar, and...we cut to two hours later, where Mercer and crew are investigating this latest body, made all the more difficult thanks to the number of enemies Murrow had, themselves included. Meanwhile, Erica has arrived home only to be seen bleeding everywhere by a friendly neighbor of hers. The neighbor cleans her up and Erica admits that she killed the man who did this to her, although she probably would have killed him even if he hadn't touched her. Disturbed, the neighbor says nothing but proceeds to sew her wound and clean up the spilled blood on the stairs.

Morning comes. Mercer calls Erica and Erica tells him she did get to sleep last night, almost right after they hung up. He then asks if she'd be willing to see what he does, and he ends up taking her to see Chloe in an attempt to get her to speak, since she already got him to. However, when the two get there, all Chloe will say is, "I saw Nobody. Nobody saved me." After the two say goodbye, Erica tries to go back to the police station to check on a murder case, but the same cop who held her up last time does so again, and this time she doesn't even bother waiting -- she just runs back to the apartment and finds a package waiting for her. She opens it up and sees the invitations for her and David's wedding. She breaks down and sees David sitting in the next room and strumming out a romantic tune on his guitar, and she yells at him that she's done as she falls asleep weeping. Meanwhile, Mercer has gotten tired and fed-up with the vigilante and demands that all witnesses from the train be questioned again. The college student is brought in, and he admits that although he and most of the other passengers got off together, there was one -- a woman with really cold eyes -- who didn't. When he gives a description to the sketch artist though, it ends up looking more like Jennifer Aniston than anyone else, although Mercer does look at the photo, and you can tell what he's thinking. Another day passes, and Mercer drops by Erica's apartment. He gives her the news that they found someone in a pawn shop trying to pawn off her ring, and then he asks her to come to the station to try and pick the guy out of a lineup if she recognizes him. Once he finally convinces her to come, though, she doesn't identify him, despite an obvious recognition of Pipe, who almost seems to smile at her through the glass. Undaunted, Mercer takes her to a cafe for some coffee, and he lets drop that they were wrong -- they know now that it's a woman doing the killing, and you can tell all through their talk that although he doesn't take her in, he is suddenly quite suspicious of her. They split up, and while Mercer calls a friend of his to trace where a cell call from Erica came from, Erica starts hitting every pawn shop in New York trying to track down info on who was doing the pawning. Finally, she comes up with a name and address for Shauna Nelson.

That night, Erica tracks down Shauna and corners her in her apartment. Despite pressure, Shauna refuses to give up her boyfriends address to Erica for fear they'll do the same thing to her they did to Erica. However, she has a change of heart and texts a message to Erica along with an attachment -- the video of her and David being beaten. Erica collapses against a wall and as soon as she recovers forwards it to Mercer. For his part, Mercer has just gotten confirmation that the call from Erica came from the neighborhood of long island -- right where Murrow was killed. As soon as he gets this, he gets another message from Erica containing the video and a single word -- "Goodbye." He races for his car and calls for backup to 90 Clayton Street just as we see Erica arriving. She gets in courtesy of a too-helpful lady and starts poking around. She hears a dog bark out back and makes her way over there where lo and behold, Curtis and Jersey are hanging out, with Jersey harassing some kids. She steps into the light and he recognizes her as the kids run off. He asks what she wants and she says, "I want my dog back," and shoots him in the head. She rescues Curtis, but the gunshot has alerted the other two and scared Curtis. Erica chases after Curtis but then hears one of them coming, and she hides in some shadows. As soon as the punk --Wool Cap -- is full in the light, Erica steps out and shoots him twice, killing him. She goes inside and continues the hunt, but is ambushed by number three, who has locked Curtis to a grate. They struggle, but Erica gets the better of Pipe, kicks his pipe away, and holds her gun on him, yelling furiously at him just as Mercer comes in. The punk begs for mercy as Erica screams at him to shut up, but eventually her rage is spent and Mercer convinces her to lower the gun...and then he informs her that if she is going to shoot someone, it should be with a legal gun and hands her his own. She takes it and as Pipe screams louder than ever she shoots him dead, completing her mission. She looks sadly at Mercer and awaits for him to cuff her, but instead he tells her to shoot him in the right shoulder, and explains that there were three punks who killed someone in the park and then got a taste for murder until he tracked them down and stopped them, getting shot by their leader in the process just before taking him down. Erica denies this at first, but ultimately concedes just before running off, leaving her gun behind. Mercer wipes Erica's gun of prints and places it in the hands of the last punk and limps over to Curtis and releases him, and Curtis barks and runs after Erica, ironically reuniting with her not far from Strangers gate, where the whole tale started. As Mercer gets carted out on a stretcher and Erica walks back to her empty apartment, we hear one last commentary from Erica, stating that once the stranger has become you, there is no going back to the life you knew or the person you were...