'Braven': Film Review

Gets the job done.

Jason Momoa stars in Lin Oeding's action thriller about a man and his elderly father desperately battling a gang of drug traffickers.

If your last name should happen to be something on the order of Braven, it's a good bet that sooner or later you'll be the hero in an action film. Such is the case with Lin Oeding's B-movie thriller starring Jason Momoa as Joe Braven, a hard-working lumberjack and dedicated family man who also happens to possess a particular set of skills that come in handy when dealing with vicious criminals intent on recovering their cache of heroin. Its theatrical release seemingly designed to tide Momoa's fans over until his upcoming starring turn as Aquaman, Braven is the sort of mindless but diverting action thriller that should find an appreciative audience on VOD.

The film's slow-going first half sets up the character's domestic background. Joe has a beautiful, supportive wife (Jill Wagner), adorable young daughter (Sasha Rossof) and a father, Linden (Stephen Lang), who is exhibiting growing signs of dementia after a workplace accident. Linden's mental lapses have a tendency to make him aggressive, with Joe having to come to the rescue when his old man gets in a bar fight.

Joe also has a co-worker, Weston (Brendan Fletcher), who moonlights as a drug runner. When Weston crashes his truck during a stormy winter night, he stashes a large pile of heroin in Joe's nearby mountain cabin. That becomes a problem when Joe, wrestling with the decision about whether to put his father into a nursing home, decides to take him there for the weekend so they can talk things over privately. Their get-together gets rudely interrupted with the arrival of the crooks whose leader (Garret Dillahunt) is as deadly as he is deceptively polite. He's the kind of bad guy who shoots one of his underlings just to make a point.

You can pretty much guess the rest. Joe and his father, as well as his little girl who they discover has stowed away in their truck, find themselves trapped in the cabin engaging in a life-and-death struggle with the evildoers intent on flushing them out and retrieving the drugs. Besides the rifle with which Linden demonstrates well-honed sharpshooting skills, they also fight back with axes, arrows and red-hot fireplace pokers, showcasing a DIY inventiveness that represents the film's most original element. Eventually getting involved in the violent mayhem are Joe's wife, who proves herself an expert with a crossbow, and a pair of local cops.

The script and dialogue are rudimentary at best, as demonstrated by Dillahunt's command to his gang, "We're taking this goddamn cabin now!" But first-time director Oeding, a veteran stuntman, clearly knows how to effectively shoot an action sequence. The brutal combat is consistently clearly staged and choreographed, with only the elaborate final battle between Momoa and Dillahunt, involving a bear trap and a cliff, coming off as silly.

Despite his fearsome physicality, Momoa again manages to come off as a relatable everyman, and Lang, as usual, superbly handles his role's considerable emotional and physical demands. In terms of sheer badassery, the 65-year-old actor gives his much younger co-star a run for his money.

Production companies: Highland Film Group, Pride of Gypsies, Hassell Free, Tinker Productions, Narrative Capital
Distributor: Saban Films
Cast: Jason Momoa, Garret Dillahunt, Stephen Lang, Jill Wagner, Brendan Fletcher
Director: Lin Oeding
Screenwriter: Thoms Pa'a Sibbett
Producers: Jason Momoa, Brian Andrew Mendoza, Molly Hassell, Mike Nilon
Executive producers: Henry Wintestern, Arianne Fraser, Delphine Perrier, William V. Bromiley, Ness Saban, Shanan Becker, Charles Auty, Megan Forde, Michael Acierno, Daniel Levin
Director of photography: Brian Andrew Mendoza
Production designer: Ra Arancio-Parrain
Editor: Rob Bonz
Composers: Justin Small, Ohad Benchetrit

Rated R, 93 minutes