From Canada comes a movie that should give red-hatters down here in the States hard-ons. Braven, directed by Hollywood stunt coordinator Lin Oeding and written by Thomas Pa’a Sibbett and Mike Nilon, follows the titular character (Jason Momoa) as he lays waste to a group of evil drug dealers attacking his mountain cabin.
Joe Braven lives a pretty decent life up in rural Nova Scotia. He owns a logging company; has a hot wife, Stephanie (Jill Wagner); a precocious daughter, Charlotte (Sasha Rossof); two homes, and a pickup truck. The only problem in his life, and it’s a big one, is his father, Linden (Stephen Lang), who is slipping into dementia.
It’s Linden, in fact, who sets off the first ass kicking viewers see in this flick — the first of many. It’s pretty good, too. Linden mistakes a woman in a bar for his wife, and Braven has to step in and wail on some dudes. It’s some lovely violence, and sets the tone for the rest of the movie.
The same night Braven and his old man are getting into it, one of his employees has been running drugs in a company truck, unbeknownst to Braven. After he wrecks the truck in snowy weather, he and an accomplice have to stash the drugs somewhere, and the closest place on hand happens to be Braven’s cabin.
The next day, Braven, Linden, and little Charlotte make a visit to the cabin and find the drugs. Meanwhile, the bad guy who owns the drugs, the outlandish Kassen (Garret Dillahunt), arrives on the scene to see about his property. Braven knows that any promises Kassen makes as to he and his family’s safety is empty, and so he prepares for a fight.
Braven’s instincts were right, because he’s one of those action movie heroes who has a supernatural understanding of circumstances. At one point in the film, Braven drops a “something’s not right” line when there was literally nothing he could see that was ‘not right.’ It’s not the use of the trope that is bad. Rather, it’s that it was used in a lazy manner. There are a few things in this movie like that. The prop department must have found a deal on one type of skinning knife, because everyone in the film has one. Braven, Linden, Stephanie, various henchmen. I wouldn’t be surprised if Charlotte outfitted her favorite teddy bear with a horizontal belt sheath. It’s a little funny at the climactic end fight when both Kassen and Braven whip out the same knife, like it was scripted or something.
My personal favorite moment of bad filmmaking is when Kassen shoots Braven off of a quad bike. Braven curses and goes flying into the snow. It looks an awful lot like Braven was just mortally wounded. So, how to convince the audience that Braven is fine? They did so by adding in a CGI bullet spark…on Braven’s canvas backpack. That’s just extraordinary. At least there wasn’t any tire squeal on the snow.
All this, and more, was almost enough to earn Braven a Shitty Movie Sundays distinction, but it’s just not shitty. There’s some bad stuff, and there’s good stuff, but not enough of the soupçon of incompetence I look for in truly shitty cinema.
The whole thing is absurd, though. The entire Braven family is lethal. They’re more prepared for an armed assault than military units that train for this stuff every day. There’s no hesitation or doubt in anything they do, and they never make a mistake. Braven takes a fair amount of punishment, sure, but he’s always in control of the situation. This is the stuff that makes Braven seem like a rightwing fantasy. Like, this is how the Bundy family must see themselves. They’re out there in the middle of nowhere being free, and then, all of a sudden, they have to defend their home from a gang of thugs from the city.
Kessen, meanwhile, is the worst kind of crime boss to work for. He’s the type that kills his subordinates when they foul up. Real-world crime bosses couldn’t stay in business if they were so cavalier with their subordinates’ lives. That’s Bond villain stuff. It doesn’t belong in any movie meant to be taken seriously. Kessen is too absurd for this absurd movie, but Dillahunt did a fine job portraying him.
Dillahunt would have been the standout actor in the film were it not for Stephen Lang. The guy has been typecast for as long as he’s been in the business. But, in Braven, audiences finally get to see this steely-faced actor show range.
Braven can get pretty bleak, which might be why I didn’t enjoy this movie more. Because, other than that, it’s a clone of 1980s and ’90s-era Patrick Swayze or Steven Seagal flicks, and those movies are right in my wheelhouse. I would love to see Momoa find success in these types of flicks. The burden is just too much for The Rock to carry on his own.