THE BRAVE ONE
Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Michael Ray, Rudolfo Hoyos, Joi Lansing, Elsa
Director: Irving Rapper
Audio: Dolby Digital Stereo
Video: Widescreen 2.35:1
Features: Theatrical Trailer, Talent Files
Length: 100 Minutes
Release Date: August 1, 2000
The Brave One is a decent
but flawed Disney-esque type story set in Mexico about a young boy and his pet bull: how they grow up together, and ultimately, how the
lad tries to save the animal from the fate of the bullring.
When the family cow dies under a fallen tree during a storm, young
Leonardo (Ray) manages to save the life of the boy calf, whom he befriends and names
Gitano (Spanish for gypsy). But two
complications loom like a shadow over their friendship.
The first is the issue of legal ownership. Though
the mothering cow had been given as a gift by a wealthy rancher to Leonardos father,
they have no initial documentation that verifies the animal belonged to his family (and
later, they manage to lose the once piece of paper that proves their case). The other problem is the bleak future of the
bullring, where most young bulls eventually wind up.
Its not reasonable to expect Gitano will escape it.
Gitano eventually reaches the age of four (of course, the BOY
doesnt get any older during those years), and when the ranch owner dies in a racing
accident, he, like all other bulls carrying his brand, is sold at auction for
bullfighting. Leonardo cannot prove the
animal is his, but he sets off on a mad race against time to find the president of Mexico,
hoping for a pardon for Gitano before he enters the ring.
The final sequence, which is the films best, is a lengthy
bullfight between Gitano and a prominent matador. You
cant help but watch this scene with a grim sense of foreboding. In a bullfight, there is one animal and one human
being squaring off, and one of them is going to die.
Oh, but I forgot
this IS the movies after all.
There is always a way out. I will say
My main problem with the structure of the story is simply that a bull
doesnt have a lot of personality, nor much in the way of on-screen charisma. Gitano is kind of cute as a calf, but as he grows
upwell, there are quite a few bulls in this movie, and I couldnt even always
tell which one he was. I never got as
attached to him as I did, say, Old Yeller or Black Beauty.
And to be honest, I wasnt sure what I was supposed to be rooting for during
the finale. Sure, I didnt want to see
Gitano die, but I didnt necessarily want to see him kill the matador, either. Had this actually been a Disney film, the matador
would have been made out a villain through subplots along the waywe would have seen
him engaged in evil acts and lies and manipulations.
It would have been cheesy, but there wouldnt have been any confusion at the
Young Michael Ray is a fairly decent child actor, but no master of
accents. Hes actually English, not
Mexican, and as such, sometimes his dialect slips back and forth between Spanish and
British, occasionally right in mid sentence. His
character in the story is completely defined by his love for Gitano, which also provides
his only motivation from point to point. You
get a feel for his sense of loyalty, but it still leaves him a fairly two-dimensional
character which the audience likes, but never completely embraces.
One interesting bit of trivia:
story writer Robert Rich, who won an Oscar for this film, never claimed his prize. Thats because Rich was a pseudonym used by
legendary screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who had been blacklisted as a result of the McCarthy
hearings. That blacklist remained unbroken
until Kirk Douglas bravely credited him with his real name as the writer of Spartacus.
This is my first experience with a DVD from VCI, and I have to say, I
was thoroughly unimpressed. Though this
doesnt really fall under the category of video quality, I want to start by
complaining about the VCI promo at the beginning, which is a full minutes worth of
cheesy computer animationand you CANT skip past it. You cant even press stop in the middle of
it. How annoying! As for the picture quality, the print itself is
mostly clean, with only a few noticeable spots and smudges here and there, but the overall
look is poor. There are many darker scenes in
the picture where images are completely undistinguishable.
One of these involves a fight between Gitano and a wildcat, and through most of it,
I couldnt even tell what I was looking at. Everything
in darker images take on the same dull, murky hue, and defining lines generally completely
disappeardreadful. Sunlit scenes fare a
little better, but still with mostly muted looking colors and a great deal of softness. I noticed no compression artifacts for this single
layered disc: no grain, no shimmer, no chroma
noise, and no color bleeding. But overall,
this is one of the worst looking color films from the 1950s Ive yet seen on
discand lack of anamorphic enhancement certainly didnt help the cause much.
Though the box claims stereo, Id personally swear this is
two-channel mono. If Im wrong, I
apologize, but if it IS stereo, there are no distinguishable split channel effects, and
its one of the thinnest sounding stereo tracks Ive ever heard. The audio is clean, with no noticeable noise or
hiss along the way, and the dynamic range (particularly the musical score) is fairly good,
but overall, the thinness makes this a less than stellar listen; its as though you
were hearing everything through a hollow tin can. Dialogue
is generally very clean and well rendered, as well as most sound effects such as a
thunderstorm and the pounding of the bulls hooves in the ring.
The disc contains only a trailer and a few talent files. And whoever created the chapter stops didnt
bother to check his spelling, listing Leonardo and Gitano as Denato and Etano. Oh, and get thisthe little leaflet that
comes with the disc actually proclaims proudly that ALL VCI discs feature interactive
menus and chapter search. Gee, our cup
The Brave One is a perfectly adequate, if a bit flawed and thin family film. It misses the real sense of emotion and character of more famous movies that mix children with their animals, but manages a good and solid finale in the end. Gitano may be a noble animal, but its the terrible overall quality of this disc thats most likely to have you screaming Bull! in your living room.