The Brave

Year: 1997
Production Co: Acappella Pictures
Director: Johnny Depp
Writer: Johnny Depp
Cast: Johnny Depp, Marlon Brando, Marshall Bell

I'd only heard two comments about this film, which surprised me as I thought a movie directed by one of today's biggest movie stars would have a bit more attention. The first was that Australia's Margaret Pomeranz said (words to the effect) that just because people with clout can make films doesn't mean they should. The other was that the reception to the film was so bad from US critics Depp vowed never to show it there.

So no questions about how I got it.

I expected a lyrical, weird headtrip, all imagery and no story, but there is one. Depp is Native American Raphael, who has a rap sheet and lives in a trailer with his sweet kids and pretty wife, their shanty-town home soon to be cleared by developers.

He shows up at a nondescript warehouse where he's been told there's work. An enigmatic stranger (Brando, maybe appearing as a favour after the relationship the two formed filming Don Juan De Marco) offers him a very different kind of job – he'll give him $10,000 now and a fortune more to his family if he lets them torture and kill him for a snuff film. I didn't actually understand that from the excess philosophising of the discussion, I had to look it up later.

Raphael turns up back at home and spends up big, determined to reconnect with his wife and show his kids a little bit of luxury, magic and easy living before he leaves them. He attracts the attention of a nasty former gangmate (Gusman) and all the while the fearsome 'manager' of the operation paying him (Bell) hangs around to remind him of his obligation.

Johnny Depp seems to me to be the sort of guy who wouldn't direct a movie unless there was a point, but I couldn't guess what he was trying to say here apart from broad strokes about the squalid lot foisted on Native Americans. It wasn't as slow and ponderous as I expected and was actually quite beautifully shot in places, more than enough to stick with until the end.

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