Cast: Jason Momoa, Garret Dillahunt, Zahn McClarnon, Stephen Lang
Director: Lin Oeding
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: Jason Momoa takes no prisoners in this intense action-thriller. When Joe (Momoa) and his father (Stephen Lang) arrive at their remote hunting cabin, they’re hoping for a quiet weekend. What they find is a stash of heroin, hidden in the cabin by drug traffickers. When the criminals suddenly descend upon the cabin, Joe and his father must make a kill-or-be-killed stand for survival.
Have you wondered what would happen if you took Aquaman, sent him to Canada, and then forced him to play a real-life version of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds? Well, Braven is the cure for that ridiculous scenario. While the ways that Joe (Momoa) defends himself and his house are creative and the bond between the family members is strong and emotional, the story is all over the place and it really weighs the film down.
I will start off with where the film falls short. The set-up for the movie makes next to no sense at all. Drugs are stashed at Joe’s cabin thinking that he will not go up there until they can move the drugs. Conveniently, Joe and his father (Lang) go up to tend to the cabin and come across the drugs. This sets up the rest of the movie, where these two battle Kassan (Dillahunt) and his gang of drug runners. Now, any sort of logic would make you think, why do they not just wait until Joe and his father leave the house and come and pick up the drugs afterwards? Well, since apparently Kassan is a sociopath who has no problem killing people who may or may not know about the problem his men have created, letting these two men go is not an option. The fact that this movie could have ended in the first half hour with any sort of logic used by both sides really bothered me, as it felt like the movie did not really have a purpose.
Moving on to things that the film does well, I thought many of the action sequences and kills were original and creative. I like the concept of finding whatever you have around the house to kill people with, no matter ridiculous it might seem. I think that some of these moments might go a little over-the-top at times, but I believe that helps symbolize just how desperate of a situation they are in. In real life, you would use whatever you had in your house to defend yourself and the movie is no different. Moving on to the character development, I thought that the relationship between Joe and his father was interesting and moving. Joe’s father’s dementia is worsening and it causes a strain on Joe’s work and family life. We never really see a character in action movies with this condition and it was unique to see how this disease impacts his ability to defend his home. I have always thought that Stephen Lang has great range and now he adds another good performance under his belt. Sure, it was not Still Alice, but it was more than serviceable. One final point, this film really benefited from its location, as the cinematography on the mountain was stunning. While that is the basics of good camerawork, I was equally impressed with some of the action sequences. One of the pitfalls of many action movies is that any scene where a character is running results in the camera shaking all over the place. However, the camerawork in Braven is actually pretty level and even through, so I hope this becomes the norm moving forward.
Overall, Braven is an above-average edition in an era of action films that tend to polarize both positively and negatively. While the story is flawed, the action sequences level out the film and make it more than serviceable. While Jason Mamoa’s character was a little flat for my liking, the main cast pulls together a decent enough ensemble performance where I want them to win and I want Kassan to lose, something that I never really feel from other movies in the genre and something I want to more of in the future.
Overall Score: 6/10