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Saturday
May122018

BRAVEN

Stars: Jason Momoa, Stephen Lang, Jill Wagner, Garrett Dillahunt, Sasha Rossof, Brendan Fletcher, Zahn McClarnon, Sala Baker, Teach Grant, Fraser Aitcheson, James Harvey Ward and Steve O’Connell.
Writers: Michael Nilon and Thomas Pa'a Sibbett.
Director: Lin Oeding.

Rating: 3.5/5

Stuntman-turned-director Lin Oeding skilfully conjures A-grade thrills out of B-movie beats in Braven, an alpha-male actioner that melds drug-deal-gone-bad tropes with wilderness survival struggles. Another satisfying step on the road to Rock-like crossover acceptance for leading he-man Jason Momoa (pictured, above), this Canadian production stays entirely within its genre parameters but does so wholeheartedly, delivering a lean, mean dose of tension, violence and sentimentality.

Biding time until his star soars post-Aquaman, Momoa plays logging company boss Joe Braven, a hardy working class type, loving husband to Stephanie (Jill Wagner, reteaming with Momoa after 2014’s Road to Paloma) and best-friend/dad to pre-teen Charlotte (Sasha Rossof). The one strain on their otherwise lovely domesticity is Joe’s ageing father Linden (Stephen Lang, God’s gift to movies like Braven; pictured, below), whose wandering memory and cantankerous moods are proving troublesome; Joe is called out late at night when his father starts a bar brawl, convinced his long-dead wife is talking to other men.

Meanwhile, one of Joe’s employees, young trucker Weston (Brendan Fletcher) has compromised himself and his boss by taking on board seething baddie Hallett (Zahn McClarnon, giving an in-for-a-penny-in-for-a-pound performance) and a hollowed log filled with lots of drugs. When the truck crashes, the pair stash the contraband in Joe’s remote cabin, forcing trafficker Kassan (Garrett Dillahunt, his demeanour as icy as the mountainous locale) and his personality-free henchmen to go bush and reclaim it. Thing is, Joe, Linden and Charlotte are already on-site…

One of Hollywood’s most respected fall guys (his credits as stunt co-ordinator include Olympus Has Fallen, Oblivion and The Equalizer), Oeding delivers action with a choreographer’s eye for fluidity and detail. Gun battles, fist fights and, most importantly, the unpleasant consequences associated with same are nailed with convincing realism within a geography that is well established. First-time scripters Michael Nilon and Thomas Pa'a Sibbett allow the occasional incongruity to seep into their structure, but never so that the tense momentum derails.

No specifics are offered as to Joe Braven’s back story; when he starts to ‘Home Alone’ the bad guys, using whatever he can find in his cabin to keep the fight going, one has to assume he’s had some survival and/or combat training, so dexterous is he at hurling a hatchet or manufacturing a bow-and-arrow. Momoa’s take on the heart-of-gold everyman with a killer’s instinct is so engaging, however, such details seem perfunctory.

Braven is as solid a throwback to the ‘80s action movie template as we’ve seen in some time, pleasingly free of the irony that would have spun the film off into wink-wink self-awareness. Its belief in itself inspires the audience to place a similar faith in its characters and narrative; like its star, it is characterised by its broad-shoulders and unshakeable integrity.

 

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