Braven is a 2018 action film about a a logger who must defend his family from a group of dangerous drug runners.
Jason Momoa is a guy you really want to like. You want to see more of him. Seriously. In Game of Thrones, right away you were like, yes, here’s a dude with some wow. He’s gonna be huge. Sure, he’s made a name since then. He had great presence as Aquaman last year and I liked him a lot in the underseen The Bad Batch, but he really hasn’t found the role yet to define him. With Lin Oeding‘s Braven, he certainly gets to spread his wings a bit, but it’s a curious movie that works hard to give him something dramatic to do, then abandons it for brawn.
Joe Braven (Momoa) is an honest, hard-working family man, head of a logging company in Canada, husband to Stephanie (Jill Wagner) and father to young Charlotte (Sasha Rossof). They are happy and while their working hours keep them separated often, all is well, though Joe deals with his father Linden (Stephen Lang), who was injured on the job, a head injury leaving him unstable. Joe has a driver named Weston (Brenden Fletcher), a good friend, who hauls trailers of cut trees, but doesn’t know that Weston and pal Hallett (Zahn McClarnon) are running drugs in a hollowed out log, working on the side for crime lord Kassen (Garrett Dillahunt). When he rolls the truck over, the two stash the drugs at Joe’s house, leading Kassen to come looking for it. Problem is, he’s not willing to have anyone left alive to know it.
Braven starts strong, spending a good deal of time firmly establishing the familial bond of Braven’s family. He’s a terrifically good guy, taking over the family business after Linden is forced out and committing to care for his wife and daughter. We get extended wholesome shots of he and Charlotte together, and it’s clear, despite time apart, there’s no love (or lust) lost between he and Stephanie. With Linden, it makes further attempts to be a more emotionally-driven character study, with Joe struggling with the right thing to do for his father’s steadily declining mental health.
However, this isn’t a drama about the needs of a family man, at least not as its set up implies. Instead, it becomes a battleground where the bodies stack up and the stakes grow higher, taking nearly half the movie to get there. When it does come, it goes full bore, giving everyone a gun (and in some cases a crossbow) in a prolonged siege. Problem is, we’ve spent all our time with Joe and hardly any with Kassen, who has almost no malicious presence aside from a perfunctory scene of nastiness in a diner that does little to really give him any weight.
That’s not to say the movie lacks momentum, at least once the action gets rolling. Oeding is a long accomplished stunt coordinator and puts that background to good use, putting Momoa through the ringer, tossing him out windows, over cliffs, subjecting him to the icy cold, fistacuffs and much more, all of which the big man takes on the chin like a true action hero. It’s jarring stuff with the one man against an army cliché surely fun to watch but ultimately familiar. It’s too bad because what comes before it is far more compelling and kind of makes you wonder what this could have been if it’d stuck to the family rather than the violence.
Movie description: BRAVEN IS A 2018 ACTION FILM ABOUT A A LOGGER WHO MUST DEFEND HIS FAMILY FROM A GROUP OF DANGEROUS DRUG RUNNERS.
Director(s): Lin Oeding
Actor(s): Jason Momoa, Jill Wagner, Garret Dillahunt