Last night I finally got around to watching Taken (Liam Nesson-I love you) and a few nights ago I watched The Brave One .I was struck by how these two movies have basically the same theme: you hurt/killed someone I love and now I have to find something to do with all this rage, but the way the story is handled makes the difference between an action movie where you wince through everything that isn't a fight scene and a movie that is just straight up awesome without relying on played out stereotypes.
Spoilers below people. Spoilers!
Let's start with Taken. Liam Nesson. Seriously I would have watched this movie if they cut out the entire lame plot and just called it "Liam Nesson kicks ass for 93 minutes". He is, as ever, fabulous. He is understated mostly in his acting, which is good cause if he was anything else it would be Schwazenager-esq. He makes fight scenes worth watching.
And that is all the good I have to say for this movie. Mind you, Liam Nesson is a whole lot of good. But...
It doesn't pass the Bechdel test. Actually there isn't a single female character in this whole movie who is treated like a human being. We have precious virgin daughter, bitchy money grubbing ex wife, spoiled pop star, and a whole lot of rape victims who are basically ignored except for frantic camera shots from one drugged, chained, half naked girl to another.
Plus there's the whole purity angle shit. Kim, the daughter is a virgin, which means the kidnappers have extra special plans for her. Kim's friend is slutty, she jokes about sleeping with the hot french guy they just met. Kim's friend will end up dead of a drug overdose, chained half naked to a bed. Kim gets to be saved because her "certified pure" status makes her uber-valuable to rapey brown men.
Oh yeah, and every single one of the bad guys in this movie is a brown dude, except for a Frenchman or two. Seriously, it could be the blueprint for the "evil muslims want to rape our daughters!" playbook.
Now on to a movie that doesn't treat women like fuckholes or virgin angels, and treats brown people like *shock, awe* people.
In The Brave One, Jodi Foster and her boyfriend are brutally robbed and beaten. Her boyfriend is killed. To overcome her agoraphobia, she buys a gun. And then she starts using it. Terrence Howard (who in real life is a SUPER DOUCHE!) plays a cop trying to catch the "vigilante" who keeps killing criminals in the city.
First, this movie passes all the tests. Women talk to other women about things that aren't boyfriends. POC talk to POC about things that aren't racism related.
But here's what really surprised me, and made me damn near giddy. In nearly every single scene in the movie, there is a POC. And they aren't all bad guys. Actually, most of them are just going about their lives, like normal people. It's beautiful. It's not even some ham-fisted anti-racism colorblind message. It's just "these people exist in the world", you know, like they actually do exist in the world.
I'm not going to spoil much of the plot for The Brave One. Go watch it. It's good. Really really good. And then you can still watch Taken, just fast forward through every scene where Liam isn't kicking ass.