Erica Bain (Jodie Foster) is a confident, content, reasonably left-wing radio host, madly in love with the city of New York and her fiancee David (Naveen Andrews). Sadly, he is killed and she is beaten within an inch of her life by a gang of thugs in Central Park one night. Emotionally shattered and incapable of feeling safe in the city she once adored, Erica buys a gun and attempts to move on. Fate has other plans, however, as she begins to encounter situation after situation that leave her with no choice but to blow somebody away. As the reputation of the mysterious vigilante begins to rise, Erica is torn between genuine disgust at her reluctant actions and the savage pleasure of dealing out first-hand justice to the blatantly deserving.
The Brave One provides examples of:
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Erica wants to kill those who do wrong, get revenge on the thugs that killed her fiance and get her dog back.
- Ate Her Gun: Discussed and defied by Detective Mercer when a Sleazy Politician's wife allegedly commit suicide via a gunshot wound to the head. He says that aside from women using a gun to kill themselves is uncommon, they almost never shoot themselves in the head/face, instead opting to shoot themselves in the heart. Indeed, her husband did kill her, but he's killed by Erica before any charges are brought against him.
- Black-and-Grey Morality: The film presents a more nuanced version of vigilantism than the usual revenge porn.
- Black Market: Erica goes to buy a gun, but is told there's a thirty day waiting limit after getting a license. A customer notices her look of desperation and approaches her outside the store, offering a Kar K-9 automatic for a thousand dollars, throwing in a box of ammunition and an impromptu instruction on how to load and fire it. There's a noticeable lack of Gun Porn compared to the gun buying scenes in Taxi Driver and Death Sentence.
- Dead Air: When New York DJ Erica Bane resumes her first radio broadcast after her vicious attack (and subsequent vigilante slaying), she falls silent in the middle of reading her opening monologue. Her savvy producer decides to let the scene play out, and a few seconds later Erica starts over with a raw and emotional impromptu dialogue about how terrifying the once familiar city can become after being victimized for the first time.
- Despair Event Horizon: Erica hits this after David is brutally murdered. She struggles to come to terms with his death and deals with her own injuries as well as the PTSD she suffers in the aftermath.
- Determinator: Erica is hellbent on killing those who do wrong, along with the thugs who killed her fiancee and getting her dog back.
- Dueling Movies: With Death Sentence, released two weeks earlier.
- Gender-Inverted Trope: It's a very typical "good man gone vigilante" story, only from a female perspective, focusing more on emotion.
- Hate Sink: All three of David's killers, but especially the leader, who laughs in a lineup when Erica tries to identify him and tries to kill her when she ultimately comes after him.
- Might Makes Right: Erica REALLY tries not to subscribe to this.... and is repeatedly left with few other options.
- Offing the Mouth: Erica kills one of her assailants by shooting him in the mouth whilst also shrieking at him to shut up as he pathetically begs for his life.
- Pre-Mortem One-Liner: "I want my dog back!" *Boom Head Shot*
- Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: The DVD cover, as shown above. However, in yet another subversion of the genre, her stare is far more focal than the barrel of the gun.
- Shout-Out: The subway scene is almost identical to one from Death Wish.
- Show Within A Film: Erica hosts a radio show. It became a call-in show after her killings gained notoriety.
- Smoking Gun Control: To Erica's disbelief when it comes to both her enemies, and later herself.
- Token Good Teammate: In a sense; the gang leader's girlfriend isn't evil, but rather terrified of him since he threaten to kill her if she told anyone what he did. However, she ultimately apologized to Erica and sent her the video of her and David's attack.