Year Released: 2000
Directed by: Neil Jordan
Starring: Jodie Foster, Terrence Howard, Naveen Andrews, Nicky Katt
(R, 122 min.)
"The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer." D. H Lawrence
This is the thinking man’s vigilante film, peppered with artsy NPR radio monologue as well as quotes by D. H. Lawrence and Emily Dickinson. But there’s plenty of badass, too, and Jodie Foster wears her compulsive vengeance like second skin, blowing away bad guys with a driven lethal fury as cold as it is addictive.
Of course, in order to appreciate her fall from it we have to understand her grace first of all. Erica Bain (Jodie Foster) is a woman in love, with her city as well as her fiancé David (Naveen Andrews), and the former is a more long standing relationship, going all the way back to a childhood fascination for the Plaza Hotel and the fictional six year old Eloise who lived in a room on the “tippy-top floor” with her Nanny, her pug dog Weenie, and her turtle Skipperdee.
Slogging through the dark streets with her portable sound kit, Erica laments the demise of the historic hotel, her raspy voice a midnight eulogy for all familiar landmarks of the beloved city eclipsing before her eyes.
But the melancholy does not pervade her love life, a rush of passion and joy so heady even her friends find it hard to handle up close. And even if you missed the trailer, any savvy moviegoer knows it’s all to good to be true, or last past the first ten minutes.
The ominous entry to Central Park, “Stranger’s Gate,” is offset by the warm park lights and the inhabited benches as Erica and David take their dog on a late night walk. David throws a ball and the dog rushes after it through a tunnel, but what lies on the other side is a world as different as any Alice entered when she went down that rabbit hole.
Both are brutally beaten, David to his death and Erica just this side of it. She awakens after a three-week coma, her idyllic future already tidily buried with David’s corpse, her beloved city now transformed into a landscape of fear.
Only an actress of Ms. Foster’s considerable talent could take us on that descent to near madness with so much credibility. Her fear is paralyzing; she has to force herself back out into the streets where even a skateboarding teen whizzing past her is almost enough to send her back inside. The way she smokes each cigarette and wills its acrid fumes to be her new best friend, along with the 9 millimeter magnum she slings into her soft shoulder purse tells of her dead end desperation.
The duality of her character is revealed directly in voice over narration when Erica wonders who is this alien creature within her, sharing her arms and legs, but certainly not what she remembers to have been her soul. It is revealed more subtly by the searching look in her bathroom mirror, or the calls she takes on live radio, where Erica instinctively plays devil’s advocate with those who lavish praise on the vigilante killer now bleeding through the headlines and also on her end of the phone.
Terrence Howard is also excellent as the sensitive police detective who befriends Erica, keeping her informed of police headway on her case, but beginning the wonder why she seems to turn up at the vigilante killings all too coincidentally. He is a fan of her poetic radio monologues, but at first shies away from admitting to such, and when he does, Erica laughs that he doesn’t fit the listener profile. But then again, Foster is no iron muscled Charles Bronson, either. Perhaps that is why Detective Mercer takes so long to realize that the petite poet with an affinity for Emily Dickinson who interviews him is also a gun slinging avenger littering the streets of New York with an assortment of low life corpses never given their Miranda rights.
Yes, it is well crafted, a slick package that stirs up some turgid waters, but in the end, the muddy waters still hold the rot that eats at our souls, devouring our consciences in full cinematic glory.
Her appetite for life is extinguished that fateful night in Central Park, but Detective Mercer knows Erica has to eat anyway. He takes her to an all night diner where she picks at something anonymous and brown, while he shows some real enthusiasm for the olives in his Greek salad, spearing them individually as he probes with equal dedication into Erica’s troubled psyche.
Our Greek Salad is a tribute to New York’s delicious ethnic diversity, overflowing with kalamata olives and feta cheese.
Ultimate Greek Salad
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano (Mediterranean is best
- 1 head lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces ((I use Romaine)
- 3 large plum tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped
- 1 English cucumber, peeled and coarsely chopped (the long, thin, almost seedless ones)
- 1medium red onion, cut into thin rings and soaked for 10 minutes in a small bowl of ice water to make it less sharp-tasting
- 1 small green pepper, cut into thin rings
- 3/4 cup kalamata olives
- 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
- Whisk dressing ingredients together until blended.
- Season to taste.
- Drain onion from ice water and pat dry with paper towels.
- Combine all salad ingredients, except cheese, in large bowl.
- Toss with dressing.
- Sprinkle cheese over and serve.
Recipe Source: Recipezaar.com