Gun Therapy


Plato wanted poets and dramatists banished from his republic because he believed they reveled in emotion to the detriment of reason and citizenship while coaxing audiences to join in the wallow. The only time I’m tempted to agree is when I see a vigilante movie. Films such as Death Wish, Dirty Harry, and Rolling Thunder prey on our fears that criminals will destroy our loved ones and us; these films put us through excruciatingly detailed scenes of violence so that we will feel righteously vindicated when Clint Eastwood or Charles Bronson guns down street scum. If a great tragedy fills us with fear and pity while struggling to a finish of hard-won transcendence, the vigilante film merely fills us with fear and anger; rather than purging us, it encourages our rage to boil and overflow and yet somehow persist, like incurable heartburn. The better crafted a vigilante movie is, the greater its immorality.

What’s interesting about Neil Jordan’s The Brave One is that it yearns to be thoughtful while twisting our guts, wants to be psychologically complex while telling us that some criminals are scumbags who deserve to have their brains blown out with no interference from the law, urges us to feel tender concern for the delicate soul of its damaged heroine even as she does everything Charles Bronson does in Death Wish. It’s too confused in its intentions and craftsmanship to be effective, but it does succeed in...

To read the rest of this article please login or become a subscriber.

About the Author

Richard Alleva has been reviewing movies for Commonweal since 1990.